The viral phenomenon that was OK Go's homemade, treadmill-o-riffic music video for 'Here It Goes Again' may never be duplicated, thanks to tightening restrictions on embeddable licensed content. The group's lead singer and guitarist, Damian Kulash, laments these frugal industry policies in a New York Times op-ed titled 'WhoseTube?'
"Believe it or not," Kulash writes, "in the four years since our treadmill dance got such attention, YouTube and EMI [OK Go's label] have actually made it harder to share our videos." OK Go shot to fame when their no-budget video for 'Here It Goes Again' garnered tens of millions of views.
"In these tight times, it's no surprise that EMI is trying to wring revenue out of everything we make, including our videos," says Kulash, who opens the article stating the band sees their videos "as creative works and not as our record company's marketing tool."
The Times op-ed seems to have been precipitated by Kulash's recent post on OK Go's official forum. Kulash began by linking to a video for 'This Too Shall Pass.' The clip is a fun, meticulously-choreographed romp with the potential to spread like Web-wildfire -- if only embedding it wasn't strictly verboten.
According to Kulash, embedded videos are exempt from the revenue YouTube pays record companies, meaning viral success comes at the peril of record labels' coffers. The dispute is a textbook case of artistic freedom clashing with an increasingly tough-to-meet bottom line for the music industry. "To the band, 'Here It Goes Again' was a successful creative project. To the record company, it was a successful, completely free advertisement," Kulash says in his Times piece. He continues:
"Now we can't post the YouTube versions of our videos on our own site, nor can our fans post them on theirs. This isn't how the Internet works. Blogs, Web sites and video aggregators serve as cultural curators, daily collecting the items that will interest their audiences the most. By ignoring the power of these tastemakers, our record company is cutting off its nose to spite its face."
Kulash's screed is bold, defining "biting the hand that feeds" in his plain statement that record labels have a well-deserved reputation for greed and short-sightedness.