Ok Go Singer Explains How Lack Of Embedding Videos Hurts Everyone

from the embed-me dept

As he's done before, Ok Go's lead singer Damian Kulash has taken to the NY Times Op-Ed pages to discuss the fact that his own record label seems a bit clueless. Basically, he's repeating what he said a few weeks ago on the band's website, claiming that YouTube only pays royalties on videos streamed on site, rather than embeds (someone from YouTube told me this is untrue, but when asked for specific confirmation I got no response). However, what is interesting, is that Kulash highlights two things:
  1. Their original video (the treadmills one) was made entirely on their own outside of EMI's influence, and the success of that video has helped make EMI and the band a lot of money:
    In 2006 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. It also exposed YouTube to all sorts of liability for streaming an EMI recording across the globe. But back then record companies saw videos as advertisements, so if my band wanted to produce them, and if YouTube wanted to help people watch them, EMI wasn't going to get in the way.

    As the age of viral video dawned, "Here It Goes Again" 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.
  2. Once EMI disabled embedding on that video, the number of views dropped drastically, harming everyone's bottom line:
    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.
Now, I'll quibble with Damian's final point there. First, it's still not entirely clear if it's true that YouTube doesn't pay for embed streams, but even if that's the case, I'd argue that of the 10,000 views per day, it also increased the number of direct views (I quite frequently will click through on an embedded video to see it at YouTube itself -- often to see more about who posted it, or sometimes the comments on the video). Second, if you recognize that embeds and things that get passed around are quite a bit like radio used to be, you have to imagine that some percentage of the 10,000 streamers per day went on to buy something from Ok Go that resulted in EMI making money. Cutting that by 90% just doesn't make any sense. Perhaps it's no wonder that EMI is on the verge of going out of business.

Damian does go on to claim that record labels are an important part of the business in funding new acts, and helping them do more expensive things early on, while aggregating risk. Indeed. I don't deny that at all -- and, as I've said plenty of times before -- there's still a place for labels that wish to do things like that. The problem is that the labels have set up their business models to rely on a single revenue stream, album sales, that is increasingly less important. The rest of the music ecosystem is thriving and will continue to do so, and if it's not the old record labels giving advances and aggregating risk to promising bands, others will step in to fill that gap. There's too much opportunity and too much money for it not to happen.

Filed Under: damian kulash, music, ok go, viral
Companies: emi


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  1. identicon
    mertz, 22 Feb 2010 @ 9:14am

    i just finished reading this (saw a friend from mtv link to it on her twitter so it's making rounds amongst the music media)and it's basically everything that's been discussed on this website. i'm actually sending you some more information from another music industry person who's also noting the same thing, but from a boss/management perspective. it's really interesting to just be an observer to all these changes coming about because of the internet, and better technology that isn't being fully adopted because some people are behind the times (generational thinking)and some aren't. i just finished hearing an interview from a long time female broadcastor who started out writing for shows in the 70's and then went on to being the main lead journalist, and to hear all these oldies talking about how times have changed so much that unless they and their management/big corporations and their bosses adapt, their careers, the medium they chose to follow and be a part of is all in danger. what's really sad about this, what's happening with the music industry and all other kinds of publishing industries for original content, is that there are some people who are all for moving forward in a big way, then there's the people who want to move tentatively and are curious about the future and what the internet/technology can do, but then there are some dipshit, established, old farts, as well as some young farty business people who buy into that type of mentality, who are stubborn as all reason and just are against change, but yet the change happens otherwise. it's hilarious and really sad, but sometimes enlightening to be an outside observer to all of this. now i'm going to go and tell my friends to reconsider journalism school, or thinking about signing record deals that puts them completely at the mercy of a big record company like universal. indie/diy has never seemed cooler.

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