The day the viral music died.Posted on Fri Jan 22 2010
If you were to make a list of the top viral video superstars, Chicago rock band OK Go would be near the top. Their incredibly choreographed video for Here It Goes Again has reaped an astounding 49 million views on YouTube, vaulting the band from obscurity to Grammy-winning stardom.
But that was 2006. Now the band is racing the infuriating reality of 2010.
In an open letter to their fans this week, OK Go had to explain why no one is allowed to embed the band's new YouTube video, This Too Shall Pass, on a blog or social network. Essentially, the very model of sharing that made the band a success is now barred to them due to record label revenue deals with YouTube.
It's an incredible and incredibly frustrating read, a face-palming case study in how corporate desperation is one of the most self-destructive forces in the modern marketplace.
You should read the entire thing over on Gizmodo, but here are some of the most enlightening bits:
We've been flooded with complaints recently because our YouTube videos can't be embedded on websites, and in certain countries can't be seen at all. And we want you to know: we hear you, and we're sorry. We wish there was something we could do. Believe us, we want you to pass our videos around more than you do, but, crazy as it may seem, it's now far harder for bands to make videos accessible online than it was four years ago.
The labels are hurting and they need every penny they can find, so they've demanded a piece of the action. They got all huffy a couple years ago and threatened all sorts of legal terror and eventually all four majors struck deals with YouTube which pay them tiny, tiny sums of money every time one of their videos gets played.
Seems like a fair enough solution, right? YouTube gets to keep the content, and the labels get some income. The catch: the software that pays out those tiny sums doesn't pay if a video is embedded. This means our label doesn't get their hard-won share of the pie if our video is played on your blog, so (surprise, surprise) they won't let us be on your blog.
So we've got this ridiculous situation where the machinery of the old system is frantically trying to contort and reshape and rewire itself to run without actually selling music. It's like a car trying to figure out how to run without gas, or a fish trying to learn to breath air.
With or without this embedding problem, we'll never get 50 zillion views on a YouTube video again. That moment – the dawn of internet video – is gone. The internet isn't as anarchic as it was then. Now there are Madison Avenue firms that specialize in "viral marketing" and the success of our videos is now taught in business school.
So, for now, here's the bottom line: EMI won't let us let you embed our YouTube videos. It's a decision that bums us out. We've argued with them a lot about it, but we also understand why they're doing it. They're aware that their rules make it harder for people to watch and share our videos, but, while our duty is to our music and our fans, theirs is to their shareholders, and they believe they're doing the right thing.
Of course, since this is a YouTube issue, the band points out that you're welcome to share their video via sites like Vimeo, which I've gone ahead and done below:posting the full transcript.