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The Blog Posting I Don’t Need to Write

My wife, son and I became fans of the band OK GO just after they left their record label EMI and it was covered on NPR’s All Things Considered. Molly Sheridan wrote on her AJ blog about this high profile split in January too. It even made the cover of Billboard Magazine.

We absolutely became fans because of their videos. If you’ve not seen them dance on treadmills, their Rube Goldberg machine, or wrangle choreographed dogs you are missing creativity in pursuit of amazing fun.
Fast forward 10 months to the Saturday after Thanksgiving and we went to LA to see OK GO perform their homecoming show at the tail end of their Fall tour. We loved it! So I started digging deeper to understand how they’re making their business model as an independent band without a record label work. As I learned more about how they are using their millions of You Tube views to secure corporate sponsorship to make more videos and stage festival events I understood that they are showing the way for artists of all types to monetize their creativity with new technology.
I even planned to write about all I was understanding about their new business model. Good thing I waited a few weeks because the lead singer, Damian Kulash, has done it for me in today’s Wall Street Journal. They titled his article The New Rock Star Paradigm
I’d extend the conceit to say we’re looking at another facet of the new artist paradigm.


  1. You say that the OK GO business model is applicable to “all types” of artists. Actually, that’s not true. It works for four white guys doing cute and rather trite routines in simple little dance videos with things like choreographed doggies. And the music, of course, must be pop oriented.
    The model is for mid-level, established artists in the pop or alt-pop scene working on the edges of the pop industry’s mass markets. It would rarely be applicable to classical musicians.
    Fortunately, many of the artists who frequent ArtsJournal are also seeking a bit more depth in their artistic endeavors.
    Even our most esteemed symphony orchestras can rarely address their work to mass markets. The concepts of OK GO seldom apply. I’m sorry to be so candid, but most classical musicians simply don’t want to act like suburban bimbos from southern California.
    We should also note that the idea of corporate sponsorship is not at all new to classical musicians. Most established wind players are sponsored by instrument companies who host their concerts and workshops. These events are held mostly in universities and public schools. The markets are small and the subsidies usually amount to a few hundred dollars and help cover expenses. There will probably never be a mass audience for bassoon players. Is there a kind of value that goes beyond monetary definitions? Or is that idea too un-American?
    We might also remember that corporations have long sponsored orchestras and opera companies, but this has not resolved the chronic funding problems America’s unique and isolated private funding system faces. So again we see the limitations of the models you propose (and that they are not even new.)
    And perhaps most importantly, artistic endeavor often includes social criticism that is sometimes directed toward economic injustices. Why would such artists turn to corporations for sponsorship when it is exactly the abuses of our economic system by corporations that is the object of their work? An example might be the anti-labor economic policies that caused Detroit to lose half its population. The city is now drawing up plans to bulldoze 40 square miles of abandoned buildings in its massive slums. Urban decay like this causes massive human suffering. And yet we artists are supposed to suck up to the corporate world, eh? This is difficult because the abuses have become so prevalent. Shall we write some waltzes for the unscrupulous Goldman Sachs executives whose policies have impoverished millions of Americans — and whose bonuses and salaries dwarf the entire budget of the NEA?
    As the Director of the San Diego Youth Symphony and Conservatory, I hope you will teach your students that there are many dimensions to responsible artistic citizenship, and that those principles should also inform our business models as artists. That’s the blog posting you DO need to write.

  2. I also found out about OK GO through the NPR report, playing “Of The Blue Color Of The Sky” as I read this.

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