OK Go has a knack for attracting attention on the Internet. First it was their innovative, cheaply produced videos. Now, the band is running into problems promoting its innovative, cheaply produced videos.
In a post at the OK Go forum, singer Damien Kulash explained to fans why its new video cannot be embedded on blogs and other Web sites: EMI has has disabled the sharing function at YouTube, by far the most popular video site on the Internet. YouTube does not pay royalties on embedded videos, Kulash explained, only views at YouTube.com. While EMI’s stance on embedded videos is understandable (companies often need to take a hard line in these types of situations), the band simply wants its fans to be able to share the video.
Four years after we posted our first homemade videos to YouTube and they spread across the globe faster than swine flu, making our bassist’s glasses recognizable to 70-year-olds in Wichita and 5-year-olds in Seoul and eventually turning a tidy little profit for EMI, we’re -- unbelievably -- stuck in the position of arguing with our own label about the merits of having our videos be easily shared. It’s like the world has gone backwards.
OK Go has been in this situation before. In 2005, Kulash wrote a guest post at my blog Coolfer. In “The DRM Hullabaloo,” Kulash gave the artist’s perspective on DRM, which he called “the most ridiculous house-of-cards model imaginable.”
That post was re-worked into a Dec. 6, 2005, op-ed at the New York Times titled “Buy, Play, Trade, Repeat.” This was in the wake of Sony BMG’s rootkit problems, a time when many new releases came with anti-copying protections. Bands, Kulash wrote, suffer when products and policies get in the way of reaching listeners.
Conscientious fans, who buy music legally because it's the right thing to do, just get insulted. They've made the choice not to steal their music, and the labels thank them by giving them an inferior product hampered by software that's at best a nuisance, and at worst a security threat. As for musicians, we are left to wonder how many more people could be listening to our music if it weren't such a hassle, and how many more iPods might have our albums on them if our labels hadn't sabotaged our releases with cumbersome software.
The truth is that the more a record gets listened to, the more successful it is. This is not just our megalomania, it's Marketing 101: the more times a song gets played, the more of a chance it has to catch the ear of someone new. It doesn't do us much good if people buy our records and promptly shelve them; we need them to fall in love with our songs and listen to them over and over.
So OK Go used the power of viral video to gain fans -- to great success -- instead of more expensive and traditional routes. Now limitations placed on a video has put the band in a similar position. One thing is for sure: the band is clever enough to work around this problem, too.
Here is the video in question for “This Too Shall Pass.”