After appearing at the Dear New Orleans Benefit Concert Tuesday night, DC native and OK Go front-man Damian Kulash was interviewed by NPR’s Neda Ulaby to close out the summit on Wednesday.

In an amiable conversation, Damian covered the history of OK Go videos, the embedding controversy, and the split with EMI.

An Economic History of OK Go Music Videos

The band first started choreographing dance moves in preparation for their appearance on a Chicagoland cable access show: Chica-go-go.  The show couldn’t handle live performances, but “we didn’t want to lip-sync unless we were really swinging for the fences.” So they rented some N’Sync and cheerleading videotapes to come up with a dance routine, which they used to end their live shows for a few years.

The first video, for “A Million Ways” was filmed in Damian’s backyard, with choreography by his sister, a ballroom dancer.  Budget: $5 (plus Starbucks runs).

The next step was a big one, $5,000 for “Here it Goes Again” (The Treadmill Video).  When they showed the result to the head of digital marketing at Capitol Records, his response was: “If this gets out, you’re sunk.”  It got out, and was viewed over a million times in the first two days.  It now has more than 52 million views.  Sunk indeed.

(Damian mentioned that the first music video produced by Capitol Records had a budget of $435,000, more than all of their other videos combined.)

Next up was “This Too Shall Pass” (Rube Goldberg Machine Version), which had a budget of over $30,000.  And finally, there is the “White Knuckles” video, which jumps another order of magnitude to a $300,000 price tag.  Dogs (and their trainers) don’t work cheap.

The OK Go Litmus Test for Sponsorships

Much of the FMC Policy Summit explored methods artists are using to fund their albums, tours, and videos.  Damian said that the business model of the labels was based on recordings, but people don’t pay for recordings anymore.  So the old model is broken, and the new model “doesn’t need to be just one thing.”

Like most everyone else on the Internet, OK Go is looking to advertiser support as part of the answer.  “This too Shall Pass” was sponsored by  State Farm, as detailed in this Business Week article.

Thanks to their track record in delivering good music with creative and compelling videos, they are approached by firms that want to rub off some of that OK Go magic.  When asked how they decide whether or not to associate with a particular sponsor, he said they ask a basic question: “Does it feel disgusting?”

3D Video and the Samsung NX100

Damian revealed that the “White Knuckles” video was shot in 3D, though that version hasn’t been released yet.  Not sure exactly what they are waiting for, since he also noted that 3D has been available on YouTube since Google employee Pete Bradshaw coded the 3D player software in his spare time.

In possibly (or not) related news, OK Go just kicked off a promotion with Samsung for the new NX100 camera.  According to Wired, “White Knuckles” was shot with two hacked Canon PowerShot TX1 cameras and an Altoids tin.  But it might look real pretty on this Samsung 55-Inch 1080p 3D LED HDTV.

What we do know is that OK Go will be shooting their next project on an a Samsung NX-100. And while it looks like a very nice camera, we’re not sure the $500 price tag will be within reach of the average fan.

When Neda Ulaby opened things up for questions from the audience, one was from an OK Go fan named Rachel.  Damian recognized her from “all our shows” and the OK Go message boards (3,406 posts and counting).  In her most recent post, Rachel describes the exchange as follows:

My question was about the merch in the store that was priced upwards of $50-$100 (and the MOAP at $1200).  The point I was making was that if I’m such a huge fan (which, btw, Damian announced to all watching) and I’m not buying it, who is?  I started by saying “I have a limited amount of income” and Damian interrupted me to say “And I want more of it.”

See also:

Music Industry on Social Media: We Have No Idea

Breaking News: OK Go Leaves EMI