OK Go is one of those bands whose videos you love but rarely listen to their music independently of the video. Everyone knows OK Go and can recall at least one of their many videos to hit YouTube over the last 10 years. They were one of the first bands to truly understand the viral power of YouTube and made videos and catchy tunes to specially delight us in this new medium. They launched themselves on the world with the then crazy video for "Here It Goes Again" with the band riding and performing on treadmills. It would have been fun to see people's faces in the video concept meeting when someone from the band said the whole video would revolve around them performing in perfect synchronization with moving treadmills. If they had a label financing the video at this point most certainly, they took their money off the table and told them to pay for this nuttiness themselves.
They were also early to the game of corporate sponsorship with major companies like State Farm and General Motors paying for videos.
Over the years they continued to up their game with the concepts of the videos and their executions got more and more sophisticated. Each video is a work of film making genius that takes time, planning and considerable money to execute. Each video is distinct and wonderful. In addition to the magic of the videos are the "behind the scenes" videos on their production which shine a light on the technical wizardry and skill required to make each video.
Today the OK Go Channel on YouTube has more the 400,000,000 views and averages roughly 50,000 plays per day, so it is still a force to be reckoned with. It was then with surprise that I saw OK Go re-release "This Too Shall Pass (Marching Band)" last week. This video is off to a sluggish start with only 200,000 plays after being out for a week. In a current YouTube world where make up tutorials and reaction videos clock in millions of plays in a couple of days, this feels like a huge miss for OK Go.
So is the band over? Have they lost their Mojo like Austin Powers? The easiest answer is yes – they have had a good run, thank you next. The OK Go audience over 10 years has aged out and gone onto other things. The truth more likely is much more about the ever-evolving nature of YouTube and its audience. YouTube is all about frequency and the algorithm. YouTube is watching every user move on a video page. What they are clicking on, what are is being moused over, what it the watch time, is there social interaction? Similarly, YouTube is as actively watching and measuring its creators. Re-releasing a 9 year old video with a slightly different name is not going to fool the machine into thinking there is fresh grist for the mill. There is endless ink spilled about creator burn out, the need to constantly publish and the relentless need to up the novelty factor. OK Go has turned out one major video per year for the last 10 years. Today's creators get twitchy and feel anxious if they let a couple of days pass without whipping out their phones to capture a frenetic post to keep the algorithm primed and serving their videos up as recommendations. YouTube has no time for thoughtfulness, it is running 24 / 7 trying to figure out what you want to watch to serve more ads to you.
So, let's not feel sorry for the guys of OK Go. They may be over for YouTube, but they are off the treadmill and more than likely making more money as creative gurus for brands that will pay them far more than YouTube's meager ad revenue share.