ok go watch content

Three years ago, I admit that I watched my fair share of Ok Go’s catchy homespun video:

They were pretty successful, and made in my estimation an ok band into a bit of an internet sensation. And then there were follow-ups. But lately, it seems the band’s label has been giving them flack for their online content. This led to an interesting open letter on their website. Nothing too surprising, but a good introduction to what happens when hype-machine and capitalism don’t mesh so well and a band wants to make a career:

…But where are they gonna find money if no one buys music? One target is radio stations (there’s lots of articles out there. here’s one: http://arstechnica.com/tech-policy/news/20…ouse-senate.ars ). And another is our friend The Internutz. As you’ve no doubt noticed, sites like YouTube, MySpace, and Blahzayblahblah.cn run ads on copyrighted content. (…) The labels are hurting and they need every penny they can find, so they’ve demanded a piece of the action. They got all huffy a couple years ago and threatened all sorts of legal terror and eventually all four majors struck deals with YouTube which pay them tiny, tiny sums of money every time one of their videos gets played. Seems like a fair enough solution, right? YouTube gets to keep the content, and the labels get some income.

The catch: the software that pays out those tiny sums doesn’t pay if a video is embedded. This means our label doesn’t get their hard-won share of the pie if our video is played on your blog, so (surprise, surprise) they won’t let us be on your blog. (…)

Let’s take a wider view for a second. What we’re really talking about here is the shift in the way we think about music. We’re stuck between two worlds: the world of ten years ago, where music was privately owned in discreet little chunks (CDs), and a new one that seems to be emerging, where music is universally publicly accessible. The thing is, only one of these worlds has a (somewhat) stable system in place for funding music and all of its associated nuts-and-bolts logistics, and, even if it were possible, none of us would willingly return to that world. Aside from the smug assholes who ran labels, who’d want a system where a handful of corporate overlords shove crap down our throats? All the same, if music is going to be more than a hobby, someone, literally, has to pay the piper. So we’ve got this ridiculous situation where the machinery of the old system is frantically trying to contort and reshape and rewire itself to run without actually selling music. It’s like a car trying to figure out how to run without gas, or a fish trying to learn to breath air.

The end result? EMI won’t ‘let them let fans’ post their content. Hmpf.

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