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.