Why OK Go Went Facebook-Only With the Debut of Its Buzzy, Zero-Gravity Music Video

Today's top viral clip isn't on YouTube

When OK Go releases a new video, it's bound to cause a viral explosion online. And today, in a possible sign of the times, all that buzz was centered solely on Facebook.

The video for "Upside Down & Inside Out" features the band's four members (and a few acrobatic flight attendants) performing one of their signature choreographed routines, this time aboard a zero-gravity airplane ride.

But you won't find the official clip on YouTube. Instead, fans visiting the band's YouTube channel will find a clip of singer Damin Kulash encouraging them to check out the music video on Facebook.

So why go Facebook-only and skip uploading it (for now at least) to YouTube, the world's usual go-to spot for video?

The band has had several high-profile beefs involving YouTube over the year, but Kulash decided to keep things positive in his explanation today to Adweek:

"With each video, we're trying to find a new creative challenge for ourselves, and the launches feel the same way," Kulash said. "The stars aligned with Facebook this time, and we were excited to try something new.  A decade ago, we fell into a great thing, making our own videos—we found both a new creative outlet and new connection direct to our fans, but it was only possible because we were willing to experiment with new ways of reaching people."

The band also passed along some stats that were provided by Facebook:

  • 780 million people are connected to a music page on Facebook.
  • People now watch a collective 100 million hours of video daily on Facebook.
  • On average, there are more than 8 billion video views on Facebook every day.
  • Every day more than 500 million people watch video on Facebook.
  • More than 75 percent of video views are on mobile.
  • 53 percent of all video views come from shares.

Here's the video posted to YouTube, featuring Kulash and bassist Tim Nordwind as they talk about their zero-gravity experience and urge viewers to watch the music video on Facebook:

The same living-room video appears on the band's Twitter page (though Kulash's downward pointing is a bit awkward there since the link is actually above him on that social channel).

Although the band didn't air any grievances with YouTube today, OK Go has certainly had a rocky past with the Google-owned video service, which was ironically where the band's fame was launched via viral videos like Here It Goes Again. But the problems haven't always originated with YouTube itself.

In 2010, the band wrote an open letter explaining why its popular YouTube video for This Too Shall Pass couldn't be embedded in blogs or other sites outside of YouTube:

"The labels are hurting and they need every penny they can find, so they've demanded a piece of the action. They got all huffy a couple years ago and threatened all sorts of legal terror and eventually all four majors struck deals with YouTube, which pay them tiny, tiny sums of money every time one of their videos gets played. Seems like a fair enough solution, right? YouTube gets to keep the content, and the labels get some income.

"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."

In 2012, the band's manager described YouTube ad revenue on OK GO's videos as being "so small based on how many streams we've done that I would say that it's not a business model, it's like finding change on the street."

So it's not too surprising to find the band focusing its newest viral effort on Facebook, which has been actively working to increase ad revenue for video content creators.

The video (created in partnership with Russia's S7 Airlines and agency Tutkovbudkov) seems to be off to a terrific start: It's trended nationally on Twitter for much of the morning and has generated about 2.6 million views in its first four hours on Facebook.

If you haven't already, be sure to watch the video here.

The band has also shared some behind-the-scenes info about how it pulled off the zero-gravity video. (Adweek can vouch for the difficulty, having just sent our own staff writer Marty Swant into near-orbit.)

Here are some interesting tidbits from the band's FAQ about the video:

Is this all one take?

"Yes, it's all one continuous take, but there's a bunch of time removed. Again, the longest stretch of zero gravity we can get is about 27 seconds, and then it takes five minutes to reset to do it again. We wanted the whole video to take place in weightlessness, so we designed the routine in 27 second chunks, scenes that start and end right at the moments gravity is going and coming back. After we filmed a scene, when gravity returned, we stayed as still as we could for the five minutes of the plane climbing, and then began the next scene as soon as we were weightless again. When we were done, we chose our best take and cut out all of the long reset periods, so the routine is continuous and feels seamless."

How long did it take to shoot?

"It took months to plan and set up, but we were actually on site near the Cosmonaut Training Center in Russia for three weeks. During that time we did 21 flights, with 15 zero gravity parabolas per flight, for a total of about two hours and fifteen minutes in weightlessness. For the first week we did test flights to figure out which ideas would work and which wouldn't. How hard is it to control yourself? If you do a really cool flip once, can you repeat it? What looks cooler in zero gravity: a chain of a string of beads? Toothpaste or a shaken can of soda? How hard is it to place place a tablet in the air and just have it stay still? By the second week, we'd chosen our favorite ideas; we had our bag of tricks, and we assembled them into a routine and rehearsed it. The third week was proper shooting, we just ran the routine eight times over eight flights."

@Chris_Heine Christopher Heine is a New York-based editor and writer.
@griner david.griner@adweek.com David Griner is creative and innovation editor at Adweek and host of Adweek's podcast, "Yeah, That's Probably an Ad."