Rock band OK Go is one of the Web 2.0 success stories.
The band’s video for “Here It Comes Again” was a viral phenomenon in 2006 as the members performed an inventively choreographed routine on a series of treadmills. To date, the video has more than 22 million views, and it is the conceptual prototype for bands looking to distinguish themselves from the ocean of other talented bands making good music.
OK Go plays Tipitina’s Saturday, and according to the band’s Tim Nordwind, the viral success of “Here It Comes Again” and the group’s subsequent videos wasn’t a product of the members being more Web savvy or experienced than others.
“Email became a big part of my life when I was 19 or 20, but actually being online — it wasn’t until Wi-Fi was everywhere that I started to be online regularly. Now I’m online all the time.”
Nordwind attributes the band’s success to the way it thought about the Internet.
“It wasn’t because we were longtime users,” he said. “We came along at an opportune time when the Internet became an art space. We happened to make things that go very well in that space. The Internet became a space for creativity it 2005, 2006. We weren’t the first people to use the space, but we came along pretty early on and had good luck with it.”
Ironically, the success of the video started the band down the path to leave its label, EMI, and go independent.
In 2010, OK Go struck out on its own for a number of reasons, but the last straw came when the label wouldn’t allow the videos to be embedded or shared. EMI attempted to keep the band’s output centralized and under the label’s control when Internet trends were toward decentralization, and the band’s success was a direct result of fans participating in the band’s story by sharing the videos.
“It didn’t make sense that they wanted to punish the people who wanted to share the music and wanted to share the video,” Nordwind said. “Why deny people access to us?”
This summer, OK Go returned with its most ambitious video yet for “The Writing’s on the Wall,” an immensely catchy pop song that echoes the ’80s new wave band New Order.
It almost plays second fiddle in the video to mind-bending optical illusions that present themselves for moments as a camera follows the band through a 30,000 square foot warehouse in Brooklyn full of toys and geometric sets. The video is one long shot, and Nordwind says it took between 50 and 60 takes to get four or five usable versions to choose from.
“The whole video is about seeing one thing at one specific angle and having it make sense for a second,” Nordwind said.
“So the camera choreography was incredibly important to get right. Our choreography was not as difficult as trying to figure out how far out the camera had to be and at what angle it had to be pointed for the junk to look like a square.”
That video was almost three months in the making, with one month of that spent building the set. The band conceived of the idea years ago, but it wasn’t until they found the right people to work with that the video became a reality.
When they met members of the New York-based production company 1stAveMachine, the timing was perfect. “We were just starting to think about making a video for a song from this new record,” Nordwind said.
The video has been seen more than 11 million times, and it signals another web-related change in the music industry. There was a time when promotion for an album started with its release. Touring, advertising, press, and television and radio appearances came once the music was in the world. Today, that’s almost the end of the cycle; it’s certainly the end of the first cycle.
“If you’re going to count on one specific Tuesday to focus everybody’s attention, you will not keep people’s attention for very long,” Nordwind said.
OK Go released the video for “The Writing’s on the Wall” almost three months before the release of “Hungry Ghosts” to start people talking about the band again, but “Hungry Ghosts,” the album that includes “The Writing’s on the Wall,” didn’t come out until Tuesday. The band started a pre-sale campaign before its release through PledgeMusic, with perks for fans willing to shell out a few extra bucks. Earlier this month, fans could stream the album in its entirety on the tastemaking website Hype Machine.
“The hope is that people will hear it, like it, and talk about it,” he said. “Word of mouth is still an incredibly powerful tool.”
The band has also been on tour since July playing smaller venues before moving to larger venues after the release of “Hungry Ghosts.”
“We wanted to play some more intimate shows and reconnect with our fans again,” Nordwind said. “We haven’t played live for three or four years, and we wanted to get back into the swing of things. We’ve completely redone our show and designed it for bigger theaters, so it’s been fun to play smaller places and blow people’s heads off.”