Blog Post

Whose Fault Is It that OK Go Isn’t Going Viral?

[show=okgo size=large]Name-calling isn’t polite. That’s how my mother brought me up, anyways. So I kinda feel bad about starting off today’s review with the following: OK Go, you guys are morons.

But, frankly, it needs to be said. Why? It’s simple. The indie rock band was but a blip on the mainstream music scene until 2006, when it made jaws drop with the viral smash video for Here It Goes Again. Four dudes took eight treadmills and made one of the most joyful and exuberant music videos of the 2000s, and its online success (currently approaching 50 million views on YouTube) created a worldwide audience for the band.

However, last Friday OK Go premiered a stunt-heavy music video for the new single This Too Shall Pass, featuring a cast of 200 — including the Notre Dame marching band — who perform the tune in one take, with some fun surprises along the way. Alas, though, the video has so far only acquired about 10,500 views, which is surely disappointing to the band, yet easily explained: The video is geoblocked by Capitol Records in many international locations, and embedding in all regions has been disabled.

Copyright issues as they relate to the distribution of music videos are increasingly complex, which the advent of Vevo so far has shown no sign of curing. That’s understandable — the music industry is freaking out, YouTube is bending over backwards to accommodate it, and while fans miss out on content as a result, I personally am optimistic that this is simply a transitional phase that, eventually, will lead to a workable solution for all parties.

What makes OK Go appear to have the relative intelligence of a box of rocks — with all the smart rocks removed — is their video message to fans, released two days after This Too Shall Pass‘s premiere. The minute-long “apology” is really a passive-aggressive “why don’t you like us anymore” rant where lead singer Damian Kulash practically begs fans to watch the new video. “What did we do wrong?” he asks — the unspoken question being “Why isn’t our new video as popular as the other ones?”

And since the video message isn’t geoblocked, and it is embeddable, the fans are speaking up in the comments as to what OK Go did wrong: expect their 2006 viral success to happen despite 2010’s legal restrictions. Because here’s the thing — if you want your video to go truly viral, you have to make it possible for it to spread. Which means you have to enable embedding, and you have to make it watchable internationally. It’s a simple enough equation, and by playing dumb in this video message, OK Go just ends up looking dumb.

Look, OK Go, you’re certainly in an awkward position, and it is a shame that This Too Shall Pass is going tragically unseen. But instead of blaming the fans for your videos going unwatched, maybe instead you should put some pressure on your record company to, you know, allow all your fans to watch it.

40 Responses to “Whose Fault Is It that OK Go Isn’t Going Viral?”

  1. Johann Volkswagen

    Ok, I read the thread and now I’m kinda feeling like I have to say how I think about this video/song.
    1. The song: I listened to it every morning and a couple of other times (right now) and it never failed to pick me up.
    2. The setting: It’s in a field, ok. But (hello!) it’s not about the field at all, it’s more about random joy and funny guys with violet suits/grass on them that make great music.
    3. The Video: Is not better than other stuff they have come up with, but it suits this great song very well and I do not get tired of watching it or showing it to friends. Thus I really have to feel like okgo did a really good job altogether (again).

    This record too will be mine, despite all the anger record companies can arouse in me!!!

    PS: Hope to see you soon in Germany (can’t make it to cologne sadly) :(

  2. Kirk Alcond

    OK Go….. You guys are fantastic! I caught your, ‘This Too Shall Pass,” on YouTube here in Kunming, China, last night thanks to my VPN which allows me to bypass the censors. Most of your viewers in China, can’t understand your lyrics but they love what you do!! Trish Sie, you are behind the scene, as choreographer, but you are simply incredible. We all love your creations!!! Go girl, go…

  3. Tom Strong-are you 85? jesus.
    Casey-you are totally correct. extremely bright group of men.
    Deeerp-your picture sucks.
    Note To Capitol Records–You play Red Rover with your bands–and all you really do is write checks-sometimes. Get back in the game–and I don’t mean with Frank Sinatra, The Beatles and the rest of your back catalog. Why not do something different–allow the industry to (wait for it…wait for it…) embrace the internets. Ah….what a concept. MAKE THINGS AVAILABLE, OR LET YOUR BANDS GO AND DO IT BETTER ON THEIR OWN! btw, no one from Capitol will ever see this. Why? Because sadly, they don’t have anyone following the internet publicity. PLEASE PROVE ME WRONG, CAPITOL!!

  4. Tom Strong

    It’s up to 220K. But maybe it’s not in the millions because the song is lame and a band in a field is not that interesting, eh? Ever thought about that? Silly article.

  5. Hi folks, a word of clarification (I’m the singer for OK Go). The apology video is a joke (clearly not a very good one, since it seems to have been taken seriously), and was posted as an announcement of the premier of the TTSP marching band video. Youtube representatives asked if we could give them a video ‘drop’ that would let people know that the video’s world premier was on YouTube, and we thought it boring to give a straight ahead tag and made this absurdist breakup sketch instead. The video was made a week prior to the release of the marching band video and is not a response to its performance.

    As for the issue of geoblocking, we’re incredibly upset that the youtube versions of our videos can’t be embedded. Just one more example of major labels accelerating their own demise. We (and every individual band out there) have exactly zero leverage in this particular battle, however. So we post to other sites as well. The TTSP video will be on vimeo today. This kind of fragmentation means we’ll probably never see the likes of 50 million hits on a single posting ever again, but who cares? Perhaps it’s your passion to sit here and count the numbers, but ours is to make things that we’re proud of. And the TTSP video is great. (As is the song, in my admittedly prejudiced opinion).

    • hi Damian, THX for clearing up the things, as I said above the main problem is the geoblocking and the lack of embeding option. I feel your pain and it is really a stupid thing by labels, as a european music blogger I face with this issue almost every day tho.

      Let me us know when the vid is up on Vimeo and many blogs will post it I’m sure.

      about the viral part
      it’ss totally unpredictable and not the most important thing in the world

    • Damian, as the writer of this post I really appreciate you commenting, and frankly think it’s awesome that you’re exploring other avenues to get your videos out there. Thank you for clarifying the nature of the apology video — which I did understand was tongue-in-cheek, but couldn’t help but read as a response to the original video due to the date stamps. I officially take back all that name-calling (also meant as tongue-in-cheek, for the record).

  6. GermanUser

    Well, i don’t like their music too much, but their videos are usually very nice. And i don’t really unterstand the fuzz about this video being geoblocked, i tend to think that it’s kind of going viral by not going viral, because everybody who wants to see it, just has to put a little effort to see it (youtube isn’t the only video-site of the world, remember?).
    For (at least) german users it can be seen at (just let the commercial pass).
    Anyway, if i didn’t read that article i might never have seen it, so this reverse psychology-thingy seems to work pretty fine ;-)

  7. What’s surprising is those guys are actually very smart about this stuff. I know the singer at least studied a lot of semiotics and the band seem to be pretty media savvy overall. The fact that you can’t embed the video is probably a big part of its perceived lack of success, but it also probably owes more to the fleeting nature of viral videos themselves, too – no one ever really knows why or when something is going to go viral. Maybe one or two low-budget videos was all the Internets wanted from OKGO?

  8. geobanning is suicide. I just wanted to post up the video in our music blog but I was not able to watch it from Europe. Music blogs are the most serious promotional field for music these days, so they missed all that support what they previously got from bloggers.

    But hey maybe this is the viral method itself? not letting the fans to get what they want! everybody is complaining and we all talk about OK go now ;)

  9. Ryan Lawler

    I think maybe the lack of virality could also be due to the fact that the nostalgia for “viral” OK Go videos is mostly gone.

    It’s like going to an M. Night Shyamalan movie and not being surprised by the twist ending. Of course it has a twist ending, it’s an M. Night Shyamalan movie!

    I feel the same way about OK Go — maybe if they weren’t trying so damn hard to be “viral” all the time, people might want to share this innovative new video where, “Oh my god, you won’t believe what happens!”

    • Ummmm I’m not quite sure their main goal in life actually is “going viral” so much as “making cool shit and hoping people notice.”

      Besides, if you’re going to look at it that way, isn’t that EVERY bands goal??

  10. Here’s the thing – the video premiered last night, not 3 days ago. Believe me, I know. It shows up on Youtube saying it was added Friday, but it was kept private until last night. 10,000 views in less than 24 hours, while certainly not viral, is not bad. As for the video where they ask for Youtube’s forgiveness, that was a joke, also filmed awhile back. You’re finding connections that don’t exist.

    • You’re right that it’s not bad, but if that’s the case why does the apology (released on the 10th) specifically reference a video that has not yet premiered? Perhaps I’m reading too much into it, but the point stands that expecting this video to go viral isn’t feasible given the legal restrictions.

  11. You are absolutely correct!

    I can’t stand that geotagging / geoblocking bullshit!!! How can these companies be sooo stupid?

    I live in Canada, and most sites: hulu,, comedy central block their content to Canadians. How ridiculous is that? They want LESS people to look at their ads?? As if Canadians don’t buy the same things Americans do.

    Some day these companies will realize what they’ve done and it will be too late. Screw capitol records.