OK Go has never embraced a normal path for popular music. They've been making hit viral videos since before YouTube mattered, and have had more success getting their songs into video games than into people's iTunes libraries. Early this year, OK Go broke from its relationship with EMI, not long after the lead singer, Damian Kulash, wrote an op-ed in the New York Times where he essentially opined that the record industry and the band didn't agree on how to leverage the value of online music videos.
The band formed its own label and, effectively, a new business model for how artists can connect directly with their audience and marketers, and indirectly benefit by promotion and awareness that drives merchandise sales and touring.
Whether their model provides better economics (even for them) has yet to be determined. These videos do take time and they do cost money -- more than $200k in the case of their Rube Goldberg video for the song "This Too Shall Pass," according to the band's manager.
But think about the potential payoff.
The current video generated 3 million views in three days. That's about $60k in media value to a brand advertiser. The Rube Goldberg video has gotten 18 million views in 6 months. That's more than $350k in media value. That video was also sponsored and partially underwritten by State Farm.
The band's videos have been seen nearly 100 million times in total on YouTube -- that's probably an audience of over 20 million. Even if only 1% of them ever bought one track, that's still 200,000 tracks. And some of them must have gone on to see a show or buy a T-shirt, right?
The "White Knuckle"s video was done in support of the ASPCA. But the band didn't stop with the video. They've gone on to develop a re-mix contest with the higher-def audio content for sale on their site. The contest is underwritten by Rock Band.
As the traditional music money pot continues to shrink,musicians are increasingly open to engage marketers with creative projects that help both sides achieve their goals. And in many cases, music videos and social networks are creating the currency that makes all this worthwhile.
Kudos to OK Go for connecting their unique form of entertainment with good causes and smart brands.