The interview with Tim was only about a half hour, but there was so much information to pull out of it I figured it would be better appreciated it if were split into two pieces. Plus, each piece is about a thousand words and that's more than long enough for online reading. You can read Part1 here.
OK Go has seen unprecedented success with their online videos of late and Jeremy likened them to Pixar who never seem to fail at their chosen creative outlet. So we thought it would be cool to sit down with them and talk about their online video creation process, and thoughts about it all. Tim Nordwind was gracious enough to give us some of his time to do just that.
How does OK Go come up with video ideas?
We use a variety of techniques. We're usually on the search for something that would be fun to make for however long it takes. Since we're independent we can look at videos in a whole new light, it's not marketing for a record but as a separate art piece. We then think of visual ideas and then already have a great soundtrack to them, which is our music. Sometimes we come up with our own ideas, sometimes we work with friends, other times someone finds us and says "hey what about a laser toast animation video." It's all about getting excited about an idea and then executing.
Do they get help seeding their videos with views and marketing them?
We recently started our own label with an internet staff of 2 so it's basically us, the fan base and the small staff of people who put it on YouTube, blogs, etc. There's no outside source of traffic.
How have things been since leaving the label, more challenges? More freedom? What were the surprises?
There's definitely a lot more freedom or a lot less flagpoles to run stuff up. Nothing against the label, they have their way to do things and we didn't work with that system so now we have the freedom to have the ideas that are creative and then make then exactly how we see fit. There's definitely more challenge and work and  probably has been the busiest year of our lives, but you can't put a price on creative freedom to do whatever, whenever we want.
It looks like there's probably no way they would go back because it's more free even if it is more work.
It's great to find the sponsorships and that's enabled a lot more things to be made that we wouldn't have been able to make without the sponsorship.
Tim wasn't really concerned about how people know them, video, music, live shows, merchandising or whatever. Some like live shows, some video, some music... it doesn't really matter and it's hard to know exactly how many people like them for what he said, and frankly, he doesn't care.
Since we make all the ideas ourselves and aren't farming it all out to other people to do, we are more involved in the actual product and feel it's really all a part of us. If people like us for music, videos or because we have laser guitars, it's only important that the things we make are liked by someone, somewhere. It's hard of me to think of it all as separate categories as it's all stuff we make.
In regards to labels perhaps taking a page from their playbook
I have heard a lot of talk about how others are looking at the model and saying they should do that. But I don't think our model would work for everyone. It works for us as we like to do all these different things. Not all bands would really be interested in it all. It's probably part of the reason we parted ways with the label. We had a totally different way that we wanted to do things and the labels need this sort of one-size-fits-all that they can just put into place to get bands up and running.
They're too big and have too many clients to take the time and have everyone have their own plan that deviates far too much from the plan of a hit single, record, video that can then be used to market other items that are advertised in the same places as the music and videos are shown (skate shoes, energy drinks, etc).
It's not the only route in the world to be a band. We take a lot of different routes that work for us and we did come from the major label system and that seeded the capital and the following that now, we can go independent and survive. It probably wouldn't work for a brand new band as they haven't got the contacts, popularity and proven track record.
Viral videos and makers they admire
I really like Eric Wareheim is a favorite director from the Tim & Eric Awesome Show. Some of his stuff never would have flown on MTV etc. as they're too far out there. But still they're fantastic videos for fantastic songs and he's right for the space he's in. The internet is a new and exciting space for art.
Random Toast info (from Last Leaf Video)
- The Toast - somewhere between 3000-4000 pieces of toast.
The initial idea was to hand it out to be consumed but then there might be safety problems. There was some question of radioactivity of the laser printer. Hopefully it was composted or disposed of extremely responsibly. It was printed by a very responsible team and we were on tour while the toast was printed, etc. We weren't there for the fallout (this made me chuckle, fallout, radioactive toast...) afterwards, just mostly for concept and initial phases.
Thoughts on Other Media
Video games are a huge deal for the band, been in them since 2002 when NFL Madden 2003 featured Get Over It. It's a valid form of distribution for music and in some ways it's more effective than radio. I know of so many people who have heard our music in video games than in more traditional routes. I think it will continue to be a very valid place to feature music. It's also a fun way to feature music. It's a good bet that for the next 10 years it will be a valuable method of distribution and discovery for music.
Tim doesn't play any games right now. He's not much of a gamer and stopped way back during the Intellivision days. But even then he's still impressed with the scope of games that are out there. It's good to see appreciation for the media even from a person who doesn't use it.
I think Jeremy was hoping we would get a secret glimpse into online video marketing genius with a drive to make money and see success. But in talking with Tim, while those things certainly are in the mix, they don't appear to be any sort of major motivational factor. It really felt like they were in it to make the art and have people appreciate it. Not caring what people know them for, so long as they know them and like the work is pretty admirable and really shows how down to Earth they are. The fact that they have "an Internet staff of two" really shows that they're not trying to position themselves as anything but what they are, a group of people who have creativity and want to create cool stuff for the world to appreciate. Hopefully, they'll continue to do that for a long time to come.
In my last bit of research and gathering of videos, I ran into their GPS Parade video on YouTube, so here you go. I sure hope they come to Prague someday to make one of these and I get a change to participate and see the creative process firsthand.
Back from Kathmandu (The OK Go GPS Parade)