Music Companies Cut Off Nose to Spite Face

videosDamian Kulash Jr. of the band Ok Go has contributed a great opinion piece to the New York Times.

You may recall Ok Go's treadmill video for "Here It Goes Again". That clever, homemade video made Ok Go a huge success. They posted it to YouTube in violation of their record contract with EMI but it was viewed tens of millions of times, brought big crowds to their concerts on five continents, and made them and EMI a great deal of money.

Forever I've been baffled by record companies disabling the embed feature on official music videos. They're preventing publishers like me from giving them free advertising, and it forces us to find a poorer quality upload or to share the song set to a picture of the album cover or something much less impressive. It makes no sense to me, and it makes no sense to Kulash.

Embedded videos - those hosted by YouTube but streamed on blogs and other Web sites - don’t generate any revenue for record companies, so EMI disabled the embedding feature. Now we can’t post the YouTube versions of our videos on our own site, nor can our fans post them on theirs. If you want to watch them, you have to do so on YouTube.

But this isn’t how the Internet works. Viral content doesn’t spread just from primary sources like YouTube or Flickr. 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.

EMI essentially prohibits the band's video from going viral, from being shared throughout the world, and the results speak for themselves.

The numbers are shocking: When EMI disabled the embedding feature, views of our treadmill video dropped 90 percent, from about 10,000 per day to just over 1,000. Our last royalty statement from the label, which covered six months of streams, shows a whopping $27.77 credit to our account.

Clearly the embedding restriction is bad news for our band, but is it worth it for EMI? The terms of YouTube’s deals with record companies aren’t public, but news reports say that the labels receive $.004 to $.008 per stream, so the most EMI could have grossed for the streams in question is a little over $5,400.

Normally I'd embed the video here, but EMI doesn't want me doing that. Cutting off its nose to spite its face indeed.


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