By at 1:20 PM Wednesday, February 29th 2012


Why Do OK Go Make Awesome Videos, But No Money?

OK Go, Music


OK Go have always been known for their ridiculously complex music videos – elaborately choreographed treadmill dances? Check. Stop-motion park hangouts? Yup. Bread art? You bet. Rube Goldberg-esque machine stuff? Of course. Hell, they even play with trained dogs and a bunch of cups.

And yet, despite the band’s innovation and apparent ability to consistently one-up themselves over and over, they don’t make money.

YouTube “virality” doesn’t mean much in terms of money – at least for the artists, generally speaking, and Ok Go’s deal with EMI effectively left them little room to generate any revenue from their art. Yes, their albums don’t sell nearly as well as they should, but it’d be nice if they received some kind of reward for their tireless efforts.

Recently, Jamie Kitman, the band’s manager, was soundbyted as saying that any money the band makes off YouTube hits equates to “finding change on the street” – hardly the kind of money you’d expect them to make for videos with views in the tens of millions.

Kitman said the band hasn’t received any money from the streaming site VEVO, which hosts many online videos, and that VEVO pays all revenue from the videos and supported ads to EMI, rather than the band.

More from Kitman:

I am the manager of OK Go and as with all out of context quotes, mine lends itself to misreading. What Rio [Caraeff] from Vevo says is absolutely the case — as far as I know, they pay our former label [EMI] for the content they own and because we are — and probably always will be — in an unrecouped position, we’ll never see a dime, as we are forever destined to be paying them back for tour support we received in 2002, or the $505,000 video they commissioned for our first song after turning down our $65,000 budget, before they decided we weren’t a commercial proposition, or the 13 times they secretly retracked the drums on our first single at a cost of $35,000 (only to wind up using our killer drummer’s original track–priceless.)

The wrinkle in our contract which stings the most is the one that allows a label to recoup publishing income from videos — as distinct from mechanical royalties and other publishing incomes from record sales and other licenses — apparently a standard clause in old-school record deals. No one anticipated Youtube or Vevo and what do you know, this one breaks in the favor of the majors.  And while I’m busy clarifying, let me also say that the band and I bear Youtube no ill will, either.  I was merely making the point that you won’t get rich just by having an internet hit.

Besides, netizens, money is for losers. Don’t forget it.

Jamie Kitman
The Hornblow Group USA

With threats of SOPA, PIPA, and other Orwellian internet-regulating fun-killers causing controversy every few weeks, the concept of artists making money is an important one. It’s hard enough to make money as a recording artist in 2012, let alone be successful due to your videos, which ANYONE can watch at any time.

This has forced Ok Go to turn to the potentially lucrative (and also potentially career-hazardous) world of commercials, where their art and creativity can be directly turned into cash, rather than Internet revenue snatched up by a greedy music publishing organization that affixes the red tape to all corners of the Internet music world.

Shame on you, EMI – and good on OK Go for making the best out of a head-shakingly sad situation.


Meanwhile, On The Internet...

  1. Aaron Poehler says:

    Probably because their music is completely unmemorable.

  2. ryan says:

    This shit doesn’t go unnoticed, and eventually no band worth listening to will ever sign to a major label, if any. But as long as people keep buying into “mainstream” garbage the labels will die a slow death. Fuuuuuccckkkk I hate old greedy fucks.

  3. Jenkins says:

    OK Go sucks. That’s probably the first reason why they can’t make money from their music.

    • Stu says:

      Videos, not music. Their videos are great and hugely popular, for the sake of this argument their music is irrelevant

      • chad says:

        the quality/sales of their music is ABSOLUTELY relevant in this situation. their manager clearly states that their not making money because the band is still in an “unrecouped position”. if their music sold better, the record company could have “recouped” their money already and would be paying the band royalties for both their youtube hits and music sales.

        • stu says:

          trenchant observations, you seem to be making the point that if they made more money, they would have more money? I may have to apply this line of thought to my own life now…
          If we are going by what the manager has said though (and given that its all the info presented that’s what I’m doing) the label has screwed them. They drove up production costs putting OK Go in debt, then stole what little income there would be from the videos (which is what they’re good at). This is another example of a label jamming a new type of act into an old paradigm that simply isn’t going to work for this band.

          • chad says:

            there is no need to infer anything about my comment.

            screwing over artists is what most labels do best. so i have no doubt that OK Go has been screwed over plenty of times.

            the bottom line is that under the terms of their shitty deal, if they sold more albums, they could see money from their video success.

    • Dave B says:

      So Nickelback and Taylor Swift make tons of money from their music. Does that mean their music doesn’t suck?

      • LA Guy says:

        While you may not enjoy Taylor Swift or Nickelback, their songs and hooks ARE memorable, which is the point the above commenter made. Namely, that Ok Go’s songs are not.

        Their videos are INCREDIBLE and they are genius marketers. If they had songs to match it, they’d be a huge band. If it’s not working out in music, they can always start a marketing firm and get paid big bucks to do the same thing for car commercials, etc.

        Best of luck to them and indeed they have a GARBAGE record deal. Sucks.

  4. Crs says:

    they are not making money because they’re not in the making money with music business. If that were their business then they’d make good music. Their business is making cool-yet-boring-after-the-first-time-you-watch-them videos that, as this article clearly explains, do not make you rich.

  5. Nic says:

    I love Ok Go – their music, and their videos. They are incredibly talented. I hope they become HUGE. They deserve it.

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