OK Go Chats With Planet Money About The Music Business

from the here-we-go-again dept

The fantastic NPR podcast, Planet Money, interviewed OK Go frontman Damian Kulash, discussing the music industry, record labels and management secrets. In the interview, Kulash reminisces about the success that they had with their now-famous treadmill video — and then contrasts that experience with the ridiculous policy against embedding forced upon by them by their label, EMI. This battle, of course, ultimately resulted in the band parting ways with their label. Since distribution channels are no longer tightly controlled solely by the record labels, once an artist has established their fanbase, it is now much easier for them to go it alone. This story is becoming increasingly common. From Trent Reznor to Amanda Palmer, dropping a label has become the new reason to celebrate for the latest generation of musicians.

That said, OK Go left EMI amicably, and Kulash is quite appreciative of the music labels. He calls them “risk aggregators” and commends them for funding the initial monetary investment necessary to get his band off the ground. However, with the costs of music production plummeting in recent years, the days of needing huge advances just to cut an album are numbered. Couple this fact with innovative funding models, like what Jill Sobule and Ellis Paul have been doing, and then the opportunity for new bands to find success looks bright. Kulash recognizes this opportunity for new bands to find new paths to success:

There’s no known way from point A to point C or D or F anymore. … There’s all sorts of room for people to try new ideas and try innovative things. If people make cool stuff, and people are savvy in the way they deal with their cool stuff, I have no doubt that young bands will continue to rise to the top

The important takeaway here is that the new models of success may yet be discovered. Innovation by savvy people is still paramount. So, to succeed, the music industry needs to cultivate the entrepreneurial spirit and get out of the way of artists, instead of acting as a restrictive gatekeeper.

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Comments on “OK Go Chats With Planet Money About The Music Business”

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MBraedley (profile) says:

Re: Re:

I don’t see how you can say that considering that their latest album and the singles that have come with it have been relatively successful. When you consider that they produced not one but two single shot videos for the same song, the first with over a million views, and the second with over 11 million in under 2 months, it’s hard to say that they have failed. On the contrary, now that they have more freedom to to do what they want, and do what will impress they’re fans, means that they can pretty much only get bigger over the next little while.

MBraedley (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re: Re:

Wow, you really don’t know what went on. EMI didn’t dump OK Go because OK Go wanted to do some progressive stuff, OK Go dumped EMI because EMI wouldn’t let them do it. OK Go obviously feels that the drop in sales because they no longer are with EMI is offset by the increase in sales because they are implementing CwF + RtB.

Anonymous Coward says:

“So, to succeed, the music industry needs to cultivate the entrepreneurial spirit and get out of the way of artists, instead of acting as a restrictive gatekeeper. “

No, they’re just going to lobby governments for ever increasingly draconian laws that unfairly benefit them and no one else in order to stop these new business models.

This is a rare chance for us to develop resistance, but we shouldn’t merely be reactive to resist against new laws, we need to be proactive and appeal existing laws that give special interest groups control over public airwaves and other monopolized distribution channels. The laws in place prevent indi artists from releasing CC licenses on those public airwaves and other communication distribution channels and the monopoly power on those channels needs to be removed. Furthermore, when it comes to public airwaves, no monopoly should be granted on both any spectra and on the content at the same time because it results in a situation where consumers, outside the Internet, can only easily access content at monopolized prices. Monopolized broadcast airwaves should only be used for public domain works or for CC like works that anyone can freely copy, redistribute, and do whatever they please with.

Scott@DreamlandVisions (profile) says:

They have suceeded...

.. in the only way they needed to for their business model.

Making money, producing albums, shooting videos, distributing little plastic disks are not now and never have been the primary roadblock to success for a musician.

Obscurity is. Once you break through the obscurity wall, everything else is simple.

It’s really the only valid “product” from a record label at this point.

The success of groups like Ok Go, Amanda Palmer, etc prove that you no longer need the labels to do that for you. With a bit of savvy w/r/t public perceptions and the use of the new media technologies out there, any one can break the obscurity wall.

Making money after that is where the real skill comes in. Anyone with a gimmick can get a million views on Youtube, but having something of substance behind the gimmick that you can monetize is where talent comes in.

Palmer, Ok Go, Rezner, et al… all have that substance and talent in abundance. They also have the knowledge and skills to successfully monetize it.

Labels are buggy-whip makers if they don’t realize that they are not the channel or gatekeepers anymore. They are not the star-makers. They are a service industry that has forgotten what their prime product is.

Booger says:

Why does everyone judge artist success by whether they could be featured on Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous?

“there is no indication that these guys are selling much. if they were the record label wouldn’t have been so happy to get rid of them.”

So they weren’t making enough to keep the record execs rolling in Coke and Hookers. If none of them have day jobs, they own their own houses and cars, and are not in debt while doing what they love, then they have succeeded. Just because they aren’t living in Mansions driving gold plated Rolls Royce’s doesn’t make them a failure.

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