OK GO Talk Viral Music & EMI

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Industry  OK Go 

Written By:

Aidan Williamson

22nd February 2010
At 14:27 GMT

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During an op-ed piece for the New York Times, OK GO guitarist and vocalist Damian Kulash Jr. took the opportunity to pound the already bleeding corpse of EMI a little more, despite still being signed to them.

"In 2006," he says. "We made a video of us dancing on treadmills for our song 'Here It Goes Again'. We shot it at my sister’s house without telling EMI, our record company, and posted it on the fledgling YouTube without EMI’s permission. Technically, this put us afoul of our contract, since we need our record company’s approval to distribute copies of the songs that they finance."

He continued "[The video] was viewed millions, then tens of millions of times. It brought big crowds to our concerts on five continents, and by the time we returned to the studio, 700 shows, one Grammy and nearly three years later, EMI’s ledger had a black number in our column. To the band, 'Here It Goes Again' was a successful creative project. To the record company, it was a successful, completely free advertisement."

Surely you'd think that seeing how such action on a band's part made them hugely popular and turning a profit, the record label would be embracing of such viral video? Of course to assume that, you'd have to factor in the labels actually having a brain which doesn't have the word "money" on looped playback.

Kulash continues, "Embedded videos — those hosted by YouTube but streamed on blogs and other Web sites — don’t generate any revenue for record companies, so EMI disabled the embedding feature. Now we can’t post the YouTube versions of our videos on our own site, nor can our fans post them on theirs. If you want to watch them, you have to do so on YouTube.

"But this isn’t how the Internet works. Viral content doesn’t spread just from primary sources like YouTube or Flickr. Blogs, Web sites and video aggregators serve as cultural curators, daily collecting the items that will interest their audiences the most. By ignoring the power of these tastemakers, our record company is cutting off its nose to spite its face.
"The numbers are shocking: 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.

"It’s decisions like these that have earned record companies a reputation for being greedy and short-sighted. And by and large they deserve it."

He then summarised the position labels find themselves in by ending: "In these tight times, it’s no surprise that EMI is trying to wring revenue out of everything we make, including our videos. But it needs to recognize the basic mechanics of the Internet. Curbing the viral spread of videos isn’t benefiting the company’s bottom line, or the music it’s there to support. The sooner record companies realize this, the better — though I fear it may already be too late."

You can read the full article from which these excerpts are taken from by visiting the New York Times website.

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