How many times does a band have to take the music video world by storm before its record label gets that its members might know a little something about music videos? We may never find out, because OK Go, the band in question, has just ditched EMI, the record label in question, largely due to that very problem.
OK Go rocketed up through the indie rock world in large measure due to the band’s brilliant, lo-fi music videos, which have spread like wildfire on YouTube. But EMI, in a misguided attempt to wring every penny out of the band’s success, decided to block embedding on the YouTube videos–meaning the videos were unable to disseminate out through music and pop culture blogs, news sites, and personal blogs the way they did before the restriction. And that’s not a minor detail: the band saw a 90% drop in views when that restriction went into effect. As in, 100,000 views one day, 10,000 views the next.
OK Go isn’t a band with huge hit radio singles; they’re a journeyman power pop act that puts out reliably excellent, not blockbuster, albums. Music videos are the band’s way of making themselves buzzworthy, and it works: their homemade videos have achieved a level of popularity nobody could have predicted. So when the label makes their videos less popular, it means, in no uncertain terms, that less people out there know about OK Go, which means less people can buy albums and tickets for the hard-touring band’s shows.
It’s a ridiculous decision from the label, and the band was never shy about voicing discontent, even in the most public way possible. Singer Damian Kulash wrote an op-ed that appeared in The New York Times, a letter to his fans that appeared, among other places, in Gizmodo, and the issue came up in just about every interview the band gave. Now, the band has taken the final step: leaving EMI, and forming their own Paracadute Recordings label to release future (and a re-released version of the current Of the Blue Colour of the Sky) music.
The very first change? The band’s explosively popular (and completely mesmerizing) Rube Goldberg-gone-berserk “This Too Shall Pass” is now embeddable. And the band, which despite a Grammy award has never been a huge seller, is seeing results: since the videos have become embeddable, digital album sales tripled and digital tracks sales have jumped more than sevenfold.
In a press release from the band, Kulash makes it clear that the choice, if not the actual act, to split was an easy one:
“We’d like to thank the people who have worked so hard on our behalf,” said OK Go singer Damian Kulash, who will discuss the band’s departure from the label on NPR’s “All Things Considered” today. “And we’d like to thank our fans for making this choice an easy one for us.”
It’s not totally clear if this means every OK Go video will be made embeddable–EMI may still own the rights to those videos, so the famous treadmill video for “Here It Goes Again” as well as the band’s other videos are still blocked from embedding. But at the very least, this means the next huge OK Go smash video will be open for all to see.