that OK Go video you nearly never saw: EMI and the embedding wars

I wasn’t going to post the video from those treadmill-botherers OK Go for the HEATH ROBINSON (Rube who? Heath invented the idea before Rube, guys 😉 machine video for ‘This Too Shall Pass’ as everyone is embedding it all over the place.

But that’s exactly it – if EMI had their way, you probably wouldn’t have seen it. Bloggers et al wouldn’t have been able to embed it, and OK Go wouldn’t have had this viral hit on their hands. See the State Farm plugs during the video and the end? They sponsored the video so it could be embedded. Nice bit of advertising for them (6 million views on YouTube already) but a reflection of how crazy the industry is and how silly EMI are about embedding even though one of their acts depends on it for their lifeblood and marketing.

As Damian from OK Go wrote in the NY Times last month:

Now we’ve released a new album and a couple of new videos. But the fans and bloggers who helped spread “Here It Goes Again” across the Internet can no longer do what they did before, because our record company has blocked them from embedding our video on their sites. Believe it or not, in the four years since our treadmill dance got such attention, YouTube and EMI have actually made it harder to share our videos…

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.

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…

In these tight times, it’s no surprise that EMI is trying to wring revenue out of everything we make, including our videos. But it needs to recognize the basic mechanics of the Internet. Curbing the viral spread of videos isn’t benefiting the company’s bottom line, or the music it’s there to support. The sooner record companies realize this, the better — though I fear it may already be too late.

Quite a damning piece from one of their bigger and more visible stars, really. EMI as we know has been swimming on the sea lost for some time, really needs to get a clue re: video embedding, social media and mashups and out of it’s short-term mindset if it wants to improve it’s lot. Otherwise talented people like Damian and OK Go will go elsewhere (I suspect people are already wary of EMI, causing the situation with Terra Firma, as rats leave the sinking ship).

Contrast this with Universal which recently gave it’s blessing to Pheugoo’s Lady Gaga mashup.

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