On @OKGo, viral video and going independent: What is Band 2.0?

Mental Health Break: the wonderfully creative video for “This Too Shall Pass,” from the OK Go album, “Of the Blue Colour of the Sky.”

According to the shownotes on YouTube, the video was directed by James Frost, OK Go and Syyn Labs and produced by Shirley Moyers.

The video was filmed in a two story warehouse, in the Echo Park neighborhood of Los Angeles, CA. The “machine” was designed and built by the band, along with members of Syyn Labs ( http://syynlabs.com/ ) over the course of several months. OK Go thanks State Farm for making this video possible.

I was the 7,869,145th person to discover it. [HT Mark Drapeau] I’m ok with that. The success of this video built further on “Here It Goes Again,” one of the most popular viral videos ever:

This past week, OK Go took one step further along their transition to “Band 2.0″ — they left EMI Records to form Paracadute Recordings. (Paracadute is parachute in Italian, for those wondering, along with being really fun to say.) Fittingly, the move was a;so announced on YouTube:

As Kulash indicated in a New York Times op-ed, “WhoseTube” earlier this year, however, there’s more of a backstory here. As Kulash observed, EMI prevented users from embedding the label’s videos on other websites, a move which likely targeted at increasing the label’s streaming royalties from YouTube. Kulash argued that the policy hamstrung the “viralability” of the video:

When EMI disabled the embedding feature, views of our treadmill video dropped 90 percent, from about 10,000 per day to just over 1,000. Our last royalty statement from the label, which covered six months of streams, shows a whopping $27.77 credit to our account.

Clearly the embedding restriction is bad news for our band, but is it worth it for EMI? The terms of YouTube’s deals with record companies aren’t public, but news reports say that the labels receive $.004 to $.008 per stream, so the most EMI could have grossed for the streams in question is a little over $5,400.

With that move, the “most-downloaded band ever” followed Radiohead and NIN into independent distribution and promotion. Given a press release that credits OK Go with 180 million video streams and counting, perhaps Damian Kulash, Tim Nordwind, Dan Konopka and Andy Ross figure they can make it without a label’s backing.

Given the challenges of selling music online, this hybrid model of sponsored viral media, touring and merchandise sales might allow OK Go to make enough to support families. Not every artist is going to be able to pull this off. As Jonathan Coulton showed in 2007, however, for some savvy musicians, the Web offers a new media model. Code Monkey went viral – and fans got involved:

Both Coulton and OK Go have embraced video, blogging, Twitter, Facebook and other online networks to distribute their work, promote their appearances and — crucially — engage their fans. Making money from that investment of time is the secret sauce, of course, but for some, “band 2.0″ will pay off. Not every band will be able to make more than $2 million dollars from digital downloads, as Radiohead managed to do through inrainbows.com, but OK Go’s success does show how creativity can be rewarded.

In the meantime, enjoy that Rube Goldbergian video.

UPDATE: NPR’s On the Media ran a terrific show on the the music business this weekend. Highly recommended listening. Direct MP3 download: Facing the (Free) Music

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