I was very fortunate to manage an interview with Tim Nordwind from the artistic collective known as OK Go (Part 2 Here). Alright, many of us know them as a music band, some of us know them for their viral videos. As far as Tim is concerned, it doesn’t matter what people call them or what people know them for, just as long as someone, somewhere knows them and enjoys the work they’re doing. Well, he’ll be glad to know that several of us here all like them for different reasons.
I dig their music in games like Rock Band (actually just in general) as well as their videos. Jeremy is definitely onto them over the videos they’re making and Mark, well, we know that he knows who they are, so we’re sort of a microcosm of their fanbase ourselves.
A quick history of OK Go
The band formed in 1998, cut two studio albums before a change in the membership created the team they have today, Tim Nordwind, Dan Konopka, Andy Ross (who joined in 2005) and Damian Kulash. 2002 saw the release of the self-titled, OK Go and their song Get Over It started rising the charts as people took notice. It made its way into the video games Triple Play 2003 and Madden NFL 2003. Do What You Want also made it into a couple games, NHL 06, Guitar Hero On Tour, and Burnout Revenge, and Here It Goes Again found a home in Rock Band, Guitar Hero 5 and SSX On Tour.
But this isn’t about video games, it’s about videos. Their 2006 video for Here It Goes Again also known as the Treadmill video, garnered over 50 million views in just 4 years. That’s like 34,246 views per day, every day for four years. The definition of viral video? It also netted the Most Creative Video (2006) in the YouTube Video Awards and a Grammy.
Eve though the band has been making videos for their music longer than there as been a YouTube, many now know them for their videos like the Treadmill video (Here it Goes Again), the Rube Goldberg video (This Too Shall Pass), The Dogs Video (White Knuckles) and most recently the Laser Toast Animation video (Last Leaf).
I’ve embedded all the videos at the end.
- 2000 – OK Go (Brown EP)
- 2002 – OK Go
- 2005 – Oh No
- 2005 – Do What You Want EP
- 2007 – iTunes Live from SoHo – EP
- 2007 – Master the Treadmill with OK Go (EP)
- 2008 – You’re Not Alone (with Bonerama) (EP)
- 2009 – Live from the Fillmore – New York at Irving Plaza
- 2010 – Of the Blue Colour of the Sky
Wikipedia has a nice list of all of the videos they’ve made.
When asked about the financial side of expanding beyond just music:
Tim commented that, as we all know, music sales have been moving in a generally downward fashion over the last decade.
Bands like ours have had to find alternative ways to make a living anyway. The videos weren’t really an income stream when we were on a label, they were a marketing stream. The viral videos weren’t really made for the label but more for ourselves because we wanted to make them.
When we first started making videos, YouTube didn’t exist and they were an art project. But they have definitely opened up more and more opportunities for us and some of them have been financially geared. Lately we’ve been looking to corporate sponsorships to help do the videos and that’s one way to get the videos paid for. Generally, like an old fashion patron of the arts scenario. State Farm sponsored the Goldberg video and all they wanted was a thank you at the end.
When asked about getting money via corporate sponsorship versus making videos at the label:
It’s almost easier to get money from corporations for this type of project than it would be to get that money from a record label who want to have creative say in what they’re doing while the corporations just want to be attached to something cool that gets 5-50 million eyeballs on it.
It’s much easier and more transparent than dealing with the labels which has all manner of political things like relationships with radio stations and video channels.
Is it possible this band is some new hybrid of a musical group that views viral video to be as much of a goal as music sales?
We’re a music band and have been for 12 years. But we’ve always been a group of guys that like to make things, film, music, laser guitars. It’s sort of up to other people to decide but they’re certainly a music band and their world is based in the music they create which in turn created the world.
If people don’t want to call us a band, that’s fine, we don’t really care what people call us. What people think of a band is an out-dated definition created by the recording industry. Bands have become much more multimedia and they don’t have to only center on selling a record.
Sure, we want to sell our records as we’re proud of the music but we do more than that.
On how much time they spend per video:
The early videos like the choreographed ones in the backyard were about a week a piece. The Rube Goldberg (This too shall Pass) was a six month process from beginning to end with a few months of just thinking with Syyn Labs on ideas that would then make the machine. 4 months of building it and 2 days of shooting.
The dogs video (White Knuckles) was about 6 weeks of time over the course of a year. 2 weeks with dogs and trainers to see if it could be done, 2 more to get the dogs trained, 2 weeks where the band was there as well getting comfortable with the dogs and shooting the whole thing.
Read Part 2 Here – the creative process, distribution, the challenges of being independent and all sorts of talk about toast. Specifically, the toast from the recent Last Leaf video.
Here it Goes Again (The Treadmills)
This Too Shall Pass (Rube Goldberg)