Wednesday, February 28, 2007

Viral Video re-infection

Make sure you read the previous posts on viral videos or you will be wondering why I am starting with the number four.

Once again, I am back to pontificate on why I think the whole “viral video” thing is such a non-factor in the world of music videos. There is some reasonable debate over what is and isn't a viral video. I would probably categorize a video as viral if it is getting passed around for it's visual impact, humor, shock value, and so on. "Hey, check out the new video from the band I like, Silversun Pickups" would not really be a viral thing in my book. Drop a comment if you disagree.

What I mean by “non-factor”
Before you go on about how wrong I am and how I should look at OkGo – please read the previous post. I like OkGo. They seem like fun. Their videos were cool and took lots of dedication – but so f*%&ing-what. The point of a music video is to get people to buy your record and those videos, despite massive hype in all kinds of mainstream media, did not do the job. As Xzibit would say – “Check the soundscan.”

But attention CAN lead to sales, right? Sure, but if the avalanche (based on indie music scale) of attention the treadmill dudes got won’t do it, nothing your band can come up with will. Big time advertisers go viral to help out wacky sports related comedy films and bite-sized cars – but for those products the, viral video is a tiny, tiny part of the marketing. For most musical artists, the music video (viral or not) might be the whole marketing campaign.

And attention, in and of itself, is not success (or money or career). Just “getting attention” is what the tap-dancing homeless guy does on the street corner or the self-destructive goth girl at your high school that blew everyone and then realized maybe she didn’t want that kind of attention. Music videos have to turn attention into a purchase – and viral videos do that about as well as the slutty girl turned a BJ into a relationship.

Reason #4 why I largely dismiss the power of viral videos:
Viral videos make the wrong kind of impression.
The thing that draws us to watch viral videos is that the images stand out. They are visual jokes or unexpected bursts of violence/sex that entertain us for a moment – then are gone. We like them, but we don’t love them. And breaking out the credit card takes love.

Some real famous YouToogle clips are the mentos experiment guys and the trampoline bear. Most everyone has seen these clips. Ask people on the street and they will nod in acknowledgement when you say “diet coke and mentos.” What people DON’T want is to know more about the breath-mint-ologists or hear what kind of songs the tranquilized bear might have recorded on Garage Band.

The connection viral video watchers have with a high-speed freeway chase or a father getting blasted in the nuts by his oblivious child is very different from the kind of connection music fans have with their favorite bands. In fact, I would say that the kind of viral attention drawn by water-skiing squirrel actually works against the viewer taking anything to do with that video seriously.

The term is “a mile wide, but an inch deep.” Interest in viral videos is just that – a mile wide and an inch deep. Everyone wants to watch the 20 second trampoline bear video clip, no one wants to buy the trampoline bear DVD.

Not only is the viral video impression a shallow one – I believe it makes the artist come across as cheap and disposable. If I can get this for free at any point in time by typing “okgo treadmill” into a web-browser, why should I pay real money for it? What makes this something to own rather than something that lives on the web I can call up whenever I feel like it?

In conclusion, viral video might make some kind of impression – but it is not the kind of attention you want. Unless you are still rocking the black lip-stick and hanging around under the bleachers after practice.

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I think you're being short-sighted about the viral phenomenon and how it's going to change how music videos are made.

I really think we're still in the early stages of a major shift in marketing and entertainment.

The ok go hype did lead to an increase in record sales and more importantly an increase in everything else related to ok go -- touring/appearances etc... the things that now count more than album sales.

If you look at what they spent to make the video, you have to see that their investment is one of the best marketing/promotion decisions made in recent history. The fact that it wasn't more successful ultimately has to do with how mediocre the music is... if they were really good, I'm certain their album sales would have been stronger.... they parlayed the hype into getting that song added to the latest NOW MUSIC album... that's huge for a pop/rock band.

Here's my prediction about the future:

1.) videos are going to get better -- edgier, more creative, less bland... because in order for anyone to watch it, it has to be good. It's not just going to get added to MTV 2 and put in to rotation because the label greased a few palms or whatever... videos will really have to stand on their own creatively.

2.) I think part of videos getting better will involve a change in what a music videos is..... like what's already happening with commercial marketing because of tivo and everything else, we'll start to see videos where the music and the artists aren't the obvious focal point of video... they'll be more like short films that present more of a soft-sell approach....

3.) Budgets are going to continue to plummet for most artists and skyrocket for bigger artists. Like Jay-Z did with budweiser, I think we'll see big artists/labels getting advertisers to pay for their videos and those videos will be cut down into :30 second spots... and everything will be shot in south america and romania because SAG and the DGA are going to really freak out.....

and all the baby artists -- mediocre hip-hop/r&b and rock shit, will have $20k to make videos....

maybe I'm wrong.... but as someone who is sitting at the front of the boat as it's sinking (or something) I feel like I've got a great view of a fascinating time in american corporate/entertainment history.
I watched the OK Go video a while back and wondered why they didn't bother putting that kind of creativity into the music, which sounded like generic, forgettable pop punk, what little of it I actively paid attention to due to the visually distracting video.

Effective sales tool? I only know their name due to it being mentioned in this post.

Boring music = no sale.
your take on viral is pretty close...the thing you seem to be forgetting is that bands rarely make money on album sales...i'm sure the OK GO guys are getting better tours and shows, selling more merch, getting songs in movies/tv/ simply look at soundscan is a HUGE mistake.

when people talk about the music industry, they seem to think that it means labels must sell records. when they should be thinking about how artists can make a decent living through their music. and i'm not talking about some crazy "there will be no labels" future, but simply looking at where/how artists can make doesn't have to be selling discs (or even downloads).
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