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Dan Phiffer Dan Phiffer is an Internet enthusiast based in Troy, NY

The cultural heritage of the music video

I posted earlier about OK Go’s fantastic Rube Goldberg music video. I had assumed that because that video is embeddable the band had made inroads in convincing EMI to reverse their prohibition on video embeds. It turns out that OK Go decided to drop their label and form their own. From Fast Company:

OK Go rocketed up through the indie rock world in large measure due to the band’s brilliant, lo-fi music videos, which have spread like wildfire on YouTube. But EMI, in a misguided attempt to wring every penny out of the band’s success, decided to block embedding on the YouTube videos — meaning the videos were unable to disseminate out through music and pop culture blogs, news sites, and personal blogs the way they did before the restriction. And that’s not a minor detail: the band saw a 90% drop in views when that restriction went into effect. As in, 100,000 views one day, 10,000 views the next.

It’s obvious what the bands have at stake in this situation: more people watching their music videos translate into more exposure. Which means more income for the band. One would assume that what’s good for the band is also good for the record labels. Why would they undermine their own success?

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OK Go’s This Too Shall Passwww.youtube.com

After watching this (unsurprisingly) spectacular OK Go video I was struggling to remember the name of a similar contrivance in Vik Muniz’s Rebus exhibition. I found it, along with lots of helpful commentary over at Chris Devers’s blog.

A few things that struck me:

  • This is not your typical Rube Goldberg machine — it’s messy, destructive and the band members stand in as “props that can reposition themselves” (as Chris nicely puts it).
  • The open letter seems to have worked. Even recording industry lawyers are apparently powerless to this kind of strategic bad publicity.
  • On the other hand, the last few seconds of this video indicate some kind of compromise on the part of the band. It pushes this music video into the direction of “novelty viral advertising.”

All that said, I’m happy this exists. I’m also happy the marching band version exists and glad the video embedding issue has been set aside for now.

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