Mr. Chairman, Mr. Ranking Member, Members of the committee,
It’s a real honor to be here. I’m a rock singer, so I’m used to speaking my mind in front of a mic, but to be honest, this isn’t the crowd I’m used to. The reason I’m here is because my band OK Go has had the good fortune to be one of the first to truly find success via the internet.
I probably don’t need to tell you our story, because I’m assuming you’re the FloridaDeb23 and TechRick2000 that I always see on our message boards…but I do wanna show you a few of our videos to demonstrate how important an open internet is to musicians these days.
Our band started out the way every band did 10 years ago. The traditional music structure was still in place: musicians wanted to reach all those people out there, and the people wanted access to the music, and a big system had developed to connect the dots. We worked in that system — we started out playing shows at the local clubs in Chicago, we plastered posters everywhere, we toured when we could afford to, and we eventually landed that prized bird: a major label record contract.
Our first record, which we put out in 2002, did moderately well. We got into the top 20 on the Modern Rock radio charts and we got to about 100 on the Billboard sales charts. To translate that – we were in the middle of the pack, doing better than most musicians, very lucky to be doing what we love for a living, but still struggling for every fan we could find, and frankly, still struggling to pay the bills.
When we put our second record, we decided to add our own ideas into the mix a little bit. We still did all the standard things – free shows for radio stations, non-stop touring, every interview we could land – but we also started our own online campaign.
Let me show you the first video we posted online.
This is us dancing in my back yard. We choreographed this dance with my sister, and it was originally intended to be just a stunt for our live show. When you see a band on stage abandon their instruments and break into dance, it’s pretty weird, and pretty wonderful… we just wanted to look out and see 500 or 1000 jaws on the floor.
But when we shot this clip of us practicing in my backyard, we realized the clip itself was pretty cool. So we posted it online, thinking it was a nice little gift to our most serious, hardcore fans, But something about it appealed to an audience way bigger than just those core folks – within a month, it had been viewed several hundred thousand times. More people had clicked through to it than had bought our first record. Something crazy was happening.
Even crazier, we started seeing fan versions of the dance. They started posting their own videos. Hundreds of them. Check this out,.. this is actually a compilation made by a fan, of other fans doing the dance.
We saw versions of the dance at people’s weddings, in firehouses, churches, and even done by animated legos. It was something totally new… Bands are usually at arm’s length from their fans, and here we were, connecting directly with them and they with us. It was pretty amazing, and something that simply could not have happened just 5 years before.
Not to be outdone by our fans, of course, we thought we’d put up another video. We went to my sister’s house and made this. As you can see, we’re dancing again, but this time with 8 moving treadmills.
For the record, we assume no liability for any fans who try to copy this one.
We figured that FIRST video had reached about as many fans as you possibly can online, so we weren’t expecting this video to do much different than the last. But in the first two days after we posted it on YouTube, it was viewed a million times.
As you can see on the screen here, this posting alone is now over 31 million views.
Keep in mind, this video just would not have seen the light of day in a pay-to-play system.
After that video spread all over the world, our band really started to exist on a whole different level. Now we play to crowds of thousands in countries where our record isn’t even for sale… Our creativity paid off.
And, crucially, we’re making money for our label too. We license our songs all over the place, we sell real records, and our band is now a success, no matter how you slice it.
If people are wondering if the music industry will benefit from Net Neutrality, they don’t need to look any farther than us. We’re musicians. We’re part of the music industry. We need this business to thrive more than anyone else does. I’m here today representing the Future of Music Coalition’s Rock the Net Campaign and there are over 800 other bands and 125 labels signed on with me… There is some consensus, here. Net neutrality has allowed us to innovate and to create in new and wonderful and unpredictable ways.
And keep in mind, all of us are business people, and we all want to get paid for our hard work. What we need is a legitimate digital marketplace for music, and that will only happen if we build on a level playing field. So, Members of the Committee, I’m here today to ask you to preserve net neutrality and the openness of the internet. I believe it’s crucial to the future of music.