MasterClass is one of those services that everyone is aware of thanks to its ubiquitous advertising. But due to its steep subscription price, few have experienced it for themselves. Now the craftsmen behind some of the finest bespoke web content around are giving everyone a chance to experience the nitty-gritty tips from the celeb-filled video course service for the low, low price of zero dollars.
The masterWiki website recaps the salient details and tips from some of MasterClass’s courses and does it in a quickly scannable WikiHow art format. So instead of paying a $180 annual membership to find out Anna Wintour’s suggestions for being a creative leader, you can discover incredible advice like “You’re nothing without a good team” with just one click.
But not every MasterClass is vague and useless, there’s also practical advice like Gordon Ramsey walking you through the proper way to make perfect scrambled eggs:
The site is the latest project by MSCHF, a creative collective that’s working in the in-between space of influencer/hype beast/ad agency/art without committing to any of these individual disciplines. According to a July profile of the group at The Verge, MSCHF isn’t doing the kind of stealthy anti-ad work that we expect from branded Twitter accounts. Instead, it’s just splitting its time between making viral projects like remaking The Office in Slack and selling useless items like a rubber chicken bong. A pair of “Jesus Shoes” (modified Nike Air Maxes filled with holy water) sold for $1,425 in a limited edition and they still fetch absurd prices in resales. The business model is to make money from some projects and otherwise just do stuff while building an audience that eagerly awaits new timed drops on the MSCHF app.
As far as MSCHF projects go, it seems that the masterWiki falls more in the category of “for the lulz.” A spokesperson for the group told Gizmodo that MasterClass isn’t involved in any stealth promotion here in any way. MasterClass didn’t immediately return a request for comment, so it’s unclear how the company feels about having its content, to use MSCHF’s phrase, “stolen.”
The legality of this project seems shakey and there are a lot of factors involved. Sportswriters are welcome to recap what happened in a pricey UFC pay-per-view special, leading one to believe that this kind of thing would, in theory, be okay. Then there’s the issue of using celebrities’ likenesses, but at the same time, MSCHF isn’t directly selling anything on this particular site.
Another factor that might come into play is that MSCHF adds some critical commentary here and there, like its noting of Anna Wintour’s poor record on diversity in hiring while relaying her advice for being a good boss.
If MSCHF hopes that a parody and commentary defense leaves them in the clear with regards to any legal action, it picked a time when MasterClass’s big promises of technical instruction have come under criticism for being mostly empty. Just today, The Atlantic published a deep dive on the company asking, “What Is MasterClass Actually Selling?” It seems that record unemployment coupled with the need for continuing adult education has people suddenly asking if the streaming service is being misleading in its basic pitch.
I received a MasterClass subscription last year as a gift, and I enjoyed it. I’d agree that it’s more like an expensive podcasting network than an instructional selection of coursework. That was fine for me, but there could certainly be people out there who are feeling ripped off.
For me, I just like the anarchic attitude and high concept approach that recalls ‘10s-era projects like K-Hole and Dis Magazine. I like the damn-the-consequences vibe that used to be all over the internet. These days, it’s risky to even embed a social media post without facing the wrath of the copyright cops. To build this blog post, I had to get permission from MSCHF to screenshot images of “stolen” content that cribs the house art style of WikiHow, and that’s just not the web I know and love.