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.
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.