How OK Go reestablished themselves as viral superstars

An ingenious or novel device, scheme, or stratagem, especially one designed to attract attention or increase appeal. That’s the dictionary definition given to the term “gimmick”.

In an arena such as the music industry, gimmicks have always been common; some more successful than others. When you think of KISS, you think of black and white face paint. When you think of Slipknot, you think of their masks. Even B*Witched (the asterisk is key) had their trademark denim look.

But what do you think of when you think of OK GO? For many people the answer is simple; “the lads that made the video on the treadmills”. 

In July 2006, almost 10 years ago, OK Go released the video for their single Here It Goes Again  on YouTube. The video, a single, continuous take of the band performing a choreographed dance routine on eight active treadmills, was a viral sensation. The band performed the routine live at the 2006 MTV Movie Awards and also won the 2007 Grammy Award for Best Short Form Music Video and the 2006 YouTube award for Most Creative Video. The video had amassed over 50 million views before being removed from YouTube in 2010. The reposted video has since been viewed over 30 million times.

In the 10 years since then, the Los Angeles based band have relied on the gimmick of one take music videos. While the new videos have upped the ante in terms of scale and impressiveness, few have experienced the same success as the video which launched them to international attention. This Too Shall Pass, released in 2010 was attached to two separate music videos; one, an outdoor production involving a marching band, and the second, an indoor production following the progression of a Rude Goldberg machine from start to finish.

Combined, these two videos have just over 60 million views in the six years since their release. These view counts, which when compared to other artists, for a band who prides themselves on their creative music videos, wouldn’t necessarily fill the band with joy. Consider the fact that 19 out of the top 20 most viewed music videos on YouTube have each been viewed over one billion times.

Last year demonstrated a clear change in approach from OK Go. For the video for their song I Won’t Let you Down the band traveled to Japan to undertake their biggest project to date. Using Honda UNI-CUBs (which are basically electric unicycles) and a variety of coloured umbrellas, the four band members along with a cast of extras reaching up to a reported 2,300 participants performed an intricate routine, revolving around the opening and closing of said umbrellas.

Filmed using a camera attached to an octocopter drone, which transitioned between ground level and hundreds of feet above the action, the video was viewed six million times in its first 48 hours online, and also won the band the 2015 MTV Video Music Award for Best Choreography.

The international success was back after a 9 year absence.

On February 11th of this year, the band, having released several teasers in the four days previous on their YouTube channel, took a different approach and premiered the video for Upside Down and Inside Out  on their Facebook page.

The band upped the stakes yet again for this video, and filmed an entire choreographed routine, in one shot, in zero gravity.

The premise behind the video, and also the use of Facebook to promote it, have turned it into a viral gold mine. At the time of writing this article, just six days since its release, the video has been viewed over 47 million times and shared by over half a million users. Even more impressive, and also highlighting the reach Facebook has, is that the band’s page only has 829,000 likes.

After a few years in the viral wilderness, and after several failed attempts to give their online persona the resurgence it needed, OK Go are back with a bang.

Featured Image by PopTech on Flickr



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