Ira Glass of NPR’s ‘This American Life’ interviews Damian Kulash of OK, Go!

[Blogger note: Kulash is wearing a suit with pink socks and old, dirty Chuck Taylors.]

Glass notes their initial slow success, and Kulash explains that the band created a fun video in their backyard. They got an email from Chad Hurley, one of the co-founders of YouTube, who then invited the band to use the service.

Glass: “I don’t even know where you got this style, it’s like you’re doing cheerleading moves.”

Kulash jokes, “It’s obviously very glamourous and cool.”

Kulash explains that the video was sent to a site called iFilm, and that the video was viewed over 100,000 times; Kulash at first thought there was a mistake with the location of the comma, couldn’t imagine how many views they’d received.

Glass notes that the band then asked people to send their videos mocking the original. The project, “a million ways,” got hundreds of responses.

Glass: “You then start to exist in some way. You were already on a major label, which had rejected the video.”

Kulash says, “Yeah, the label saw the video and after a minute says, ‘if this gets out, you’re sunk.'”

Glass calls it NTN – Nerd-to-Nerd. Kulash explains that they then made another video, NTN (nerd to nerd) style, that became even bigger than the original.

Glass jokes: “If you’re in this audience and haven’t seen this video, you either don’t have children, don’t have friends, don’t watch television, don’t have the Internet…”

The downloads of the video are somewhere in the 60 millions. Glass: “That’s about 10 million more than you need to win a presidential election in this country.”

Kulash: “We’ve made more; they’re obviously different from other videos in that they don’t advertise our music or have boobs in them. We’ve made another eight or ten, and the last 12 have gotten over a million hits in the first week.”

Glass: “Right, and fans end up putting up videos where they knock off your videos.”

Kulash: “Yeah, there’s even a lego one, and others have copied the treadmill one. The biggest German TV network did it as a national contest.”

Glass says, “So this is obviously good for business this. Imagine if BMI, your label, had a non-neutral Internet…”

Kulash says, “A non-neutral net essentially turns into cable TV – you can have great things, but you have to get by the gatekeeper.”

Glass and Kulash note that there’s still the issue of payola, that it still takes a lot to get on the radio.

Glass: “The ability of a nobody to pass the gatekeepers is big…how many jobs have you created?” He jokes that he watches FOX is is thus aware that the president and his cabinet have never had real jobs.

Kulash says that beyond the 4 members of the band, they have two people running their label, a full time publicist, two full-time filmmakers, three management staff, plus a stock of pirates who run their touring crew. He says there are also part-timers.

Glass calculates about two dozen working for the band. He notes that NPR’s podcasts have had amazing success as well.

Glass explains how they’re often naive about their audience; they did a story on the original recipe of Coca-Cola and got hits from all over the world, plus interviews with major networks, including Al Jazeera.

Glass jokes: “Al Jazeera’s list goes Egypt, Tunisia, Iran, Coca-Cola.”

Glass: “For you as a small businessman, how would non-neutral Internet affect your business?”

Kulash says it would affect him greatly; that the exponential growth of this technology, if only to serve commercial interest, would suffer.

We will now be treated to a performance by OK Go!