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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Filed Under: music industry, ok go, planet money


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  1. icon
    Scott@DreamlandVisions (profile), 20 Apr 2010 @ 8:44am

    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.

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