OK Go explains the screwed-up state of the music industry

Damian Kulash of the band OK Go has published a tremendously informative, frustrating, and important open letter about the reason that the band's videos can't be embedded on sites like this. OK Go rose to prominence on the strength of its viral Internet videos, but now EMI, its label, won't allow embedding for its videos, because no embedding is possible. Kulash is clearly frustrated by this impasse, and his ruminations on how the industry got to this place and where it might go are required reading:

The catch: the software that pays out those tiny sums doesn't pay if a video is embedded. This means our label doesn't get their hard-won share of the pie if our video is played on your blog, so (surprise, surprise) they won't let us be on your blog. And, voilá: four years after we posted our first homemade videos to YouTube and they spread across the globe faster than swine flu, making our bassist's glasses recognizable to 70-year-olds in Wichita and 5-year-olds in Seoul and eventually turning a tidy little profit for EMI, we're - unbelievably - stuck in the position of arguing with our own label about the merits of having our videos be easily shared. It's like the world has gone backwards.

Let's take a wider view for a second. What we're really talking about here is the shift in the way we think about music. We're stuck between two worlds: the world of ten years ago, where music was privately owned in discreet little chunks (CDs), and a new one that seems to be emerging, where music is universally publicly accessible. The thing is, only one of these worlds has a (somewhat) stable system in place for funding music and all of its associated nuts-and-bolts logistics, and, even if it were possible, none of us would willingly return to that world. Aside from the smug assholes who ran labels, who'd want a system where a handful of corporate overlords shove crap down our throats? All the same, if music is going to be more than a hobby, someone, literally, has to pay the piper. So we've got this ridiculous situation where the machinery of the old system is frantically trying to contort and reshape and rewire itself to run without actually selling music. It's like a car trying to figure out how to run without gas, or a fish trying to learn to breath air.

Open Letter From OK Go, regarding non-embeddable YouTube videos