Wednesday 8 February 2012


Everyone remembers Waldstein because he chose to patronize a great composer, Beethoven, who then named a rather nice Sonata for his patron. I doubt Count Waldstein would have made Wikipedia a hundred and eighty years after his death if he hadn't chosen to sponsor Beethoven.

Where copyright is the business model, illicit copies get stomped on because some small fraction of those copies might represent displaced sales. Under a patronage model, the greater the distribution of the work, the greater the fame and approbation accruing to the sponsor.

And so we find General Motors providing free MP3 downloads of their sponsored work: OK Go's genius new song, Needing/Getting. But for some insane reason (maybe because the car isn't yet here on sale?), they're not allowing downloads in New Zealand. But that's ok. The YouTube video has to be better. Here it is.

And here's the best analysis I've yet seen on both the video and OK Go's shift from copyright to patronage: from Car & Driver Magazine.
Some rock artistes would recoil at being known as “the treadmill band,” but it doesn’t seem to bother Kulash. “Every band has songs. Not every band has videos like this,” or, indeed, a music-industry backstory like this. It involves OK Go divorcing its big transnational record label—EMI—in 2010, starting its own label, and joining the great media democratization movement on the internet.

Since the separation, OK Go has pretty much done as it pleases artistically, distributing it all free at sites such as YouTube, one of the Tahrir Squares of the music-industry revolution, while relentlessly touring and partnering with corporate sponsors to pay the bills.

Proving that Brown University doesn’t hand out degrees to just anybody, the lanky, Mick Jagger–like Kulash is a manic thinker. His speech is so flushed with philosophical abstractions and conceptual idealism that it all keeps collapsing on itself as he works to convey everything at once. To wit: “The good side from a creativity and productivity standpoint is that we don’t have to abide by any of the—not only the rules but the definition of what last century or last decade, you know, what a musician does doesn’t have to only be to make recordings, it isn’t to make a seven-inch, 45-rpm piece of plastic, you know?”

The essential point is that OK Go peddles not singles or albums but audiovisual art intended to create “joy and wonder and surprise,” as he puts it. Corporations want to be involved, and that doesn’t bother Kulash, either. “If you want to spend your day making stuff, somebody is going to have to help you pay for it.” So far, Land Rover, Samsung, and State Farm Insurance have all paid to play along. “The crazier our ideas, the more likely we are to have interest” from sponsors, says Kulash.

Ideas such as figuring out how to make music with a car.

The original concept for “Needing/Getting” grew out of a 2010 video for the song, “This Too Shall Pass.” In it, the so-called Rube Goldberg video, the band sings off a soundtrack while dominoes topple, balls and tires roll, umbrellas fly, TVs smash, and paint splatters in one continuous 3-minute 54-second take, all of which was underwritten by State Farm (look closely for the logos).
Some of the most innovative music is currently being made well outside of the traditional copyright funding model. Industry sponsorship is making content more creative.

Watch the video and hit the link above to see how they did it. Ridiculously fun.

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