Did Ok Go Free Itself From EMI? [Confirmed!]

from the nice-move dept

There’s been lots of talk about the band Ok Go lately, with its latest album coming out and two viral videos (of the same song) in the last few weeks. Of course, the whole thing has been a bit of a mess between the band and its label. When the first viral video came out, Capitol Records/EMI decided to ban embeds of the video, which seems like the best way to totally kill off a viral video. The band responded with a mild, but still somewhat exasperated note about how the label didn’t fully grasp the situation, but while also partly blaming YouTube for the way it (supposedly) handles payments on music in embedded videos. Later, Ok Go’s lead singer, Damian Kulash, penned a NY Times Op-Ed again suggesting the label was out of touch, and highlighting how much damage was done by not allowing the viral videos to go out. EMI/Capitol, for its part, tried to replace this with a faked viral campaign where you could get a free track if you blindly retweeted a message. Finally, somehow the band (and EMI?) were able to line up a sponsor in State Farm to allow for its latest video — a rather stunning Rube Goldberg machine timed to the music — to be offered up as an embed:

However, reports are coming out now — still in rumor stage, but apparently with quotes from both — that the band has been dropped from the label and is free to promote the latest album as it sees fit:

The band has formed its own independent label, Paracadute Recordings, and will take over all distribution and promotion for their latest album, Of the Blue Color of the Sky, which came out in January. “We’d like to thank the people at EMI Music who have worked so hard on our behalf,” said the band’s Damian Kulash. EMI Music said: “We’ve really enjoyed our relationship with OK Go. They’ve always pushed creative boundaries and have broken new ground, particularly with their videos. We wish them the greatest success for the future.”

Fascinating. The report also claims that:

Unfortunately, the huge traffic their videos generated never quite translated into album sales. The band’s best seller was 2005’s Oh No, their second, which included the treadmill hit, “Here It Goes Again,” and sold around 200k, while their latest is languishing at 20k.

This was the same point that was made back last year by someone from Billboard in dismissing online viral sensations as being unimportant for “real” sales. But, as the band itself noted, the success of the video brought out huge crowds and made the band quite profitable to the label. This is the problem you run into when you only think about the music industry as if “album sales” are everything. Selling music directly is not a very good business model, and focusing on how many album sales there are totally misses the mark these days.

The question now, is what will the band do when freed from the record label. It will be interesting to see, since the band seems to relish its reputation as being creative well beyond the music. Hopefully that means taking on some of the basic principles of successful cool music business models and taking them to a new level. At least I hope that’s what we’ll see…

Update: As noted in the comments, this has now been confirmed, and Damian has put up a video explaining:

Filed Under:
Companies: emi

Rate this comment as insightful
Rate this comment as funny
You have rated this comment as insightful
You have rated this comment as funny
Flag this comment as abusive/trolling/spam
You have flagged this comment
The first word has already been claimed
The last word has already been claimed
Insightful Lightbulb icon Funny Laughing icon Abusive/trolling/spam Flag icon Insightful badge Lightbulb icon Funny badge Laughing icon Comments icon

Comments on “Did Ok Go Free Itself From EMI? [Confirmed!]”

Subscribe: RSS Leave a comment
Skeptical Cynic (profile) says:

I will buy their album

If they really did break from EMI I will blindly buy their album and promo it everywhere I can. Just to give them support! The labels really need to learn that the best way to reach the buyers is simply put “any way you can!!”

Also just a piece of info: I have not bought a full album in 15 years, but I will buy theirs just to show support for them.

Danny (profile) says:

Re: This too shall pass

Big fan too since the treadmills. Both the new marching band and Rube Goldberg video are amazing. I’ve been a cog in it going viral. (hmmm, mixed metaphor there.)

Here’s the thing, though. These guys aren’t a great band. They are great performance artists. It’s the multi-media show that differentiates them from other music makers.

Take for example [and Damian, I hope you are reading this] the song in the two recent videos. Plus there’s a third YouTube video of Damian performing same song a capella with a choir. All three mixes are different from the album mix (two of them recorded live with their videos). All three are great listens; I’ve been humming the tune in my head. The album, on the other hand, is mixed so poorly I find it unlistenable. Once and done-can’t recommend to anyone to buy the album.

So, where was the EMI value added here? And where was the potential return to EMI? This just isn’t much of a fit.

“Unfortunately, the huge traffic their videos generated never quite translated into album sales. The band’s best seller was 2005’s Oh No, their second, which included the treadmill hit, “Here It Goes Again,” and sold around 200k, while their latest is languishing at 20k.”

Duh. They are never going to make it big in pure audio. Their niche is going to be finding ways to monetize performance art. That may turn out to be a stage show; that may turn out to be creative videos.

And, somewhere along the way they are going to get themselves a better sound engineer.

Andy (profile) says:

Comment from 50 Cent relevant to this

In a rather obscure interview (actually with a Swedish-speaking radio station based here in Helsinki, Finland), the interview asked a question from a listener. The question was somewhat “tongue-in-cheek” (the listener question chosen to be asked would win the submitter a signed CD) and was basically “how do you earn a living”.

50 Cent gave an interesting reply, saying that as people are not really buying “albums” any more but downloading them, he is instead looking at other sources of income with touring bringing a strong income stream as well as merchandising and some other new areas which he looks to exploit as opportunities arise.

The answer could not have been a better example of how artists are finding new ways to monetize their work in response to changing customer habits.

Ima Fish (profile) says:

someone from Billboard.. dismissing online viral sensations as being unimportant for ‘real’ sales

Can someone please tell the The Chords, The Surfaris, Katrina and the Waves, Gary Numan, The Divinyls, and thousands of other one hit wonders that the reason they were one hit wonders is because the internet sucks as a means to distribute and promote music.

What, the internet was not around back then? Those musicians were one hit wonders because they simply were not very talented? You mean, untalented musicians were promoted by labels, sold millions of records, then dropped into obscurity before the internet?

Yes, fricken yes!

Every time a musician gets some success from the internet they find some reason to call it a fluke. Well, flukes have been the mainstay of the modern music business for several decades. Get used to it.

The internet gave Ok Go the world’s ear. The world simply grew tired of what it was hearing. That’s happened before the internet, during the internet, and well after the internet goes away. No one is guaranteed a lifelong career merely because of one hit, regardless of how it is promoted.

Dirk Belligerent (profile) says:

Re: Re:

You clearly know NOTHING about music because artists like Gary Numan and Divinyls had substantial careers outside of their “one hit.” Just because YOU never heard of anything more than “Cars” or “I Touch Myself” doesn’t mean there wasn’t more behind the hits. Basement Jaxx sampled a Numan song for “Where’s Your Head At?”; Divinyls had hit songs with “Boys In Town” and “Pleasure & Pain” YEARS before “I Touch Myself” which came off their FOURTH album.

Even A Flock of Seagulls had several more hits (e.g. “Telecommunication”, “Space Age Love Song”, “Wishing”) than just “I Ran”, not that ignoramuses like you would know. Some think A-Ha’s “The Sun Always Shines On TV” is a better tune than “Take On Me” and the band is finally packing it in after 25 years of continued European success. Have you heard the whole “Tubthumping” album by Chumbawumba? It’s a solid ALBUM though 99.44% only knew the single. Same for Los Lobos, who have been around forever but only hit with “La Bamba.”

Ima Fish (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:

Thank you Dirk Belligerent for having the least amount of clue as anyone on the internet.

Where did I ever say that Gary Numan or the Divinyls did not “have substantial careers outside of their one hit.” I didn’t say any such thing, because the careers of Numan and the Divinyls were not the point of my post!!!!

The point of my post was that no one is ever guaranteed a perpetual career. Even if you use the label system, whether you use the internet, or whether you use a combination both (as Ok Go did).

So even if Ok Go‘s career is over (and I’m not saying it is, in fact it’s impossible for me to make such a prediction) you cannot blame the internet for that fact.

Actually upon thinking about it, didn’t Gary Numan give up music entirely to fly airplanes? Or was that Bruce Dickinson? Maybe it was both. But you know what, it does not matter one bit to what I was saying.

Bill Wilkins, CEO, Melted Metal Web Radio (user link) says:

Let's be real people!

Let’s be real people! EMI was most certainly generous with the band by letting them leave, opposed to dropping them. But do you really think that EMI, in the miserable shape they’re in, would allow any artist to just ‘leave’, if that artist generated a shred of profit??

The outcome between the two of them is actually a fair deal. EMI did, in fact, make money on the band, and the band gained a solid market brand from EMI’s promotional investments in the act. But now, that brand is the band’s to fuck up, and if the band is successful EMI still makes money with residual sales of the albums they own- a no lose situation for EMI.

In the end everybody looks good here, but the risk is all on Ok Go. Let’s wait and see if they truly can pull it of themselves. But personally, I would take a very hard look at bands that have succeeded with a ‘new model label’ and spend some serious cash hiring and motivating ‘those’ people.

Bill Wilkins, CEO
Melted Metal Web Radio

Add Your Comment

Your email address will not be published.

Have a Techdirt Account? Sign in now. Want one? Register here

Comment Options:

Make this the or (get credits or sign in to see balance) what's this?

What's this?

Techdirt community members with Techdirt Credits can spotlight a comment as either the "First Word" or "Last Word" on a particular comment thread. Credits can be purchased at the Techdirt Insider Shop »

Follow Techdirt

Techdirt Daily Newsletter

Techdirt Deals
Techdirt Insider Discord
The latest chatter on the Techdirt Insider Discord channel...