Contests, Kids, Law Professors, Law Schools, Music

Some Random Friday Fun: A Law Professor Turned Songwriter

Some people — for example, Chief Justice John Roberts — are not fans of contemporary legal scholarship. These critics might say, “You’d have to pay me to read the writings of a law professor!”

Well, what if a law professor were willing to pay you to check out his writings? And what if the writings in question were not, say, 150-page law review articles on “the influence of Immanuel Kant on evidentiary approaches in 18th-century Bulgaria,” but fun stuff — like song lyrics?

Meet Professor Ian Ayres, the lawyer/economist who taught me Contracts once upon a time (and one of my favorite law school teachers; he was my small-group professor). Earlier this month, at the popular Freakonomics blog, Professor Ayres announced a very interesting contest:

My daughter, Anna, spent a bunch of time this past summer writing songs. One thing led to another and we ended up coauthoring a song together. I have more than 50 academic coauthors, but this is the first time I’ve ever tried writing music with someone.

Is it easy for people to tell the difference between songs she wrote by herself and a song where I wrote most of the lyrics? Is it possible for a 52-year-old lawyer/economist to emulate the lyrics of a 14-year-old Gleek? I think a lot of people would have a surprisingly hard time. But the question is testable.

So today I’m announcing a contest where you could earn a chance of winning an iTunes gift card worth somewhere between $50-$500. To play, just click through and listen to these three songs – Friend Zone, Longer, & Your Way, and then leave a comment to this post or as a YouTube comment to one of the three songs saying: i) which of the three songs you think I coauthored; ii) identifying a line in that song you believe I wrote; and iii) identifying a line in that song you believe Anna wrote.

You can listen to all three songs, which are fairly short, over at Freakonomics. I did, and I enjoyed them thoroughly; Anna is an amazing singer, with an ethereal, soulful voice. It seems the Tiger Cub isn’t the only musically gifted offspring of a Yale Law professor!

Professor Ayres, an M.I.T.-trained economist, has developed a detailed methodology for conducting the contest:

An entry will get one point for identifying the coauthored song, one point for identifying an Ian line; and one point for identifying an Anna line.

The contest closes on October 31 at midnight. At that time, I’ll figure out how many points to assign to each commenter. If there is only one comment with three points, that commenter will win the gift card. If there is more than one comment earning three points, I’ll randomly select one comment from among this set. If nobody submits a three-point comment, I’ll repeat the procedure looking at two-point comments, and continue until I’ve identified a winner.

The more people who listen to these songs, the larger the prize (up to a cap of $500). On Oct. 31 at midnight, I’ll add together the number of “views” listed on YouTube for each song. I’ll multiply the total views for the three songs by a penny per view and increase the iTunes gift card by this amount. So if by some miracle there are a thousand total views, I’ll give one lucky commenter a gift card worth $60 ($50 + 1,000*$.01). I’ll add a 10% bonus if the winner tweeted or Facebooked “I played the #DadorDaughterContest at” Under no circumstances will I give more than one gift card, and under no circumstances will I give a gift card worth more than $500.

Professor Ayres also offers some lawyerly caveats:

This is not a legally enforceable offer or agreement. While I intend to give someone a gift card, you shouldn’t rely on this post to your detriment. Feel free to say bad things about me though if I don’t pay off.

Detrimental reliance, detrimental reliance…. I think there’s something in the Second Restatement of Contracts about this, right?

Why am I willing to put up my own money for something like this? In part, I’m paying for data. But there is also narcissism at play. I would love for people to have a listen to my and Anna’s songs. Indeed, if this works at all, I might come back and see if I can figure out a way to compensate people for downloading and reading some of my academic writing.

The usual way law professors get people to read their academic writing is by assigning it to their hapless students. Wouldn’t it be nice to get paid for such labor? Let’s hope this works out for Professor Ayres and his daughter.

P.S. Here’s my contest entry, which I’ve posted on YouTube:

(i) “Longer”
(ii) Ian line: “I could wait here longer.” (Basically, the chorus.)
(iii) Anna line: “As the sun trips and falls in the sky….”

“Longer” also happens to be my favorite song of the three, musically speaking. It’s lovely and melodic, sad and sweet, with a great bridge. I’d certainly download it from iTunes.

A Dad-or-Daughter Songwriting Contest [Freakonomics]
Law Prof. Ifill Challenges Chief Justice Roberts’ Take on Academic Scholarship [ACSblog]
Sherrilyn Ifill on What the Chief Justice Should Read on Summer Vacation [Concurring Opinions]

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