OK Go – copyright, industry change, culture and technology, and great music

March 13, 2010

You’re internet and culture savvy — you probably already know all about this stuff.

OK Go’s music appeals to many.  The appeal convinced a major record label, Capitol/EMI, to sign the band to a deal.  OK Go worked hard to promote the music of the band, including videos.  Capitol looked at the videos, intensely creative works of art on their own, and pulled in the reins.  Okay to show the vids, the label said, but don’t allow downloads . . .

Minor twist on the old band meets label, band wins label story:  OK Go got out of the contract. They lost the label.

Now they’ve got an astounding new video to go viral, one that simply delights younger viewers and brings in older viewers with whispers of “shades of Rube Goldberg!”  (Who was Rube Goldberg?  Younger readers go here.)

NPR explains:

After the overwhelming success of the video for its 2006 song “Here It Goes Again,” in which its four band members execute a tightly choreographed dance routine built around a handful of treadmills, OK Go has lofty standards to live up to. With roughly 50 million views on YouTube, “Here It Goes Again” stands as one of the most popular music videos of the Internet era.

Not one to shy away from a challenge, the band set about constructing a painstakingly executed two-story Rube Goldberg machine, set to trigger in time to the music for its latest video, “This Too Shall Pass.” Although it starts out small, with a toy truck knocking over some dominoes, the contraptions that make up the machine rapidly get larger and much more complex — pianos are dropped, shopping carts come crashing down ramps, and one band member is launched headlong through a wall of boxes. After assembling a team of dozens of engineers to construct the set, more than 60 takes were needed to get everything working just right during filming.

Toughest part?  EMI, parent of Capitol, didn’t want to allow downloads of the music or video.

The band’s label, EMI, didn’t see things the same way. In an effort to maintain some control over the dissemination of the music video, EMI denied listeners the ability to embed it on their own Web sites and blogs. After receiving a deluge of complaints, the band eventually persuaded EMI to enable embedding. Soon afterward, however, OK Go parted ways with EMI to start its own record label, Paracadute.

NPR’s audio story is six minutes of fun, and learning.  Copyright, embedding and download issues — aren’t these the frontlines of new media legal discussion?

Personal quandary: I’m not sure that I don’t like this version of the song, with the Notre Dame marching band, better than the Rube Goldberg version.  What do you think?

Personal confession: Problems of mishearing lyrics abound.  I listened probably a dozen times thinking the refrain was “When the money comes.”  It makes more sense, and is much less cynical and wooish, with the real lyric, “When the morning comes.”

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