Firstly, if you’re not familiar with the band, check them out.
During the making of the White Album, the Beatles played every song to death. There are mouldering tapes of ‘Revolution’ marked ‘Take 168′. 168 takes! Imagine! Even a deceptively simple acoustic number like ‘I Will’ ran into 30 odd takes, as the Beatles strove to get the perfect combination of performance and arrangement.
In short, musicians – like magicians – will often go to extraordinary lengths to get the desired effect.
As well as the length of time the musicians would have been involved, back in the day whole teams of engineers would have been employed, to use their specialist knowledge to find ways to overcome technical hurdles. Studios were taken apart to try and get a particular drum sound… mics were suspended in bottles of water… drums were placed in corridors…
With technology at your fingertips, you can bypass so much of that stuff today. Splicing takes together, changing the sound of the drums or the guitars – or even the pitch of the whole song – can be done from a laptop while drinking tea. You don’t even have to be in the same country to record together (check out this video, for example).
In effect, this makes music cheap. Another nail in the coffin of the paid music model – every tinpot band with a grand or two can emulate what once took thousands of man-hours and specialist skillsets to achieve. That’s not to dispute the continuing existence of musical genius – just that someone with a middling degree of talent can now create a fair approximation of the sound of a great band.
I’m blabbering. What has this got to do with OK Go? In case you’re unfamiliar with them, they are the geniuses behind videos such as the one at the top and (more famously) the ‘treadmill video’
Despite having watched this video a hundred times, I still can’t remember the song five minutes later. I literally couldn’t hum the chorus – I who can remember the lyrics to Looking For Linda by pop also-rans Hue and Cry faultlessly… 23 years since it gently bumped the middle reaches of the hit parade.
But in a sense, it doesn’t matter. OK Go are massively famous – even if you don’t know their name, or recognise the song they are part of the culture in a way that, say, Superset (to pick an entirely random example) aren’t.
Their craft lies not so much in their music, but in the effort they put into their marketing. Commenter JohnRS in a recent post, said to me:
“Put a few tracks up on YouTube as loss leaders for the album and to advertise the webcast. If you’re any good you’ll do OK.”
He is right in the broad statement of method. Indeed, we do have live performances and all the tracks from the album up on YouTube. What we don’t have is great video content. In fact, we have utter shite video content.
Should that matter for a band? It’s a question that was asked 30 years ago by the advent of MTV and answered a couple of years later by The Buggles. Video might not have killed the radio star in any literal sense, but the idea that your music could stand alone has been withering ever since.
OK Go are the ultimate expression of that trend – and highlight the way the future will look. A clutch of good songs means nothing. A single half-decent song with a ‘wow’ video means everything. Like it or not, the video for Here It Goes Again has been played 52 million times in the last 4 years. I Want To Hold Your Hand – the Beatles’ big breakthrough US single – shifted under 6 million.
So if anyone’s got an idea for a viral video that will take no time and cost next to nothing, drop me a line