Home What Entrepreneurs Can Learn from OK Go

What Entrepreneurs Can Learn from OK Go

Indie pop band OK Go debuted the music video for their song “End Love” this week. And I bet you’ve seen it already. Since its upload to YouTube on Tuesday, the video has had over 400,000 views.

Arguably OK Go are the among the masters of the YouTube platform. Their famous 2006 treadmill video for “Here It Goes Again” clocks in with over 50 million views, making it one of YouTube’s most watched and most favorited videos. Certainly OK Go have been pioneering the ways in which artists can embrace new technologies – and use them to challenge the traditional parts of the record industry. And as pioneers, OK Go offer lessons for those outside the music business.

Clearly, the most obvious lesson that startups might take from OK Go is: make a viral video. But of course, that’s easier said than done. What becomes viral isn’t necessarily predictable (nor is it necessarily positive).

So here are some other things that startups can learn from OK Go:

Focus on a Good Product, Not on Good Advertising.

Despite it being the way in which most of their fans have been introduced to their music, OK Go do not see their videos as advertisements for their band. Rather, the band views the videos as artistic projects inextricable from the music, not simply promo pieces.

And while the band is sometimes criticized for having videos that are more successful than their albums, lead singer Damien Kulash says in a New York Magazine interview, “I understand that comes from the old model of videos being a distinct advertisement for the song. And when looked at that way, if an advertisement for a car is more powerful than the car itself, yeah, you’ve got a problem. But these things are part and parcel for us and all part of the same art project.”

Do One Thing. Do It Brilliantly. Then Iterate.

OK Go’s music videos are known for being made in one-take, with a single-shot. That is, the filming is continuous, and the videos have no (or minimal) edits. And while this has become their stylistic marker, it has not stopped the band from continuing to innovate on that film technique.

Have a Plan. And Practice ’til You Get It Right.

The second video the band made for the song “This Too Shall Pass” features a Rube Goldberg machine and is a thing of creative and engineering beauty. But to achieve that, the band had “pages and pages of rules,” admits Kulash. The video took over five months of planning, several days of rehearsal, and two full 24-hour days of shooting – over 100 takes before they got it right.

Don’t Be Afraid to Push Back Against Investors.

When the band’s record label EMI disabled the embedding feature for their videos on YouTube, the band fought back – in both mainstream and new media – calling the record industry “greedy and short-sighted” in an editorial piece in the New York Times. After making a good bit of noise, the band was released from their contract and formed their own label. Their videos are, as you can see here, again available for embedding.

Of course, not everyone is in a position to pen an Op-Ed for the New York Times. But there are still ways to make your voice heard. Be your media.

Let Your Fans Be the Evangelists for Your Brand.

Give your customers something they want to tell others about. Make it easy for them to share that info.

And Finally, Remember: Things Built In Your Sister’s Garage Can Be Game-Changing.

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