Walk Off The Earth!

I have a new fave: WOTE. I confess I’m a tad late to the party. This clip, which has made them an intergalactic sensation, was uploaded WAY BACK on January 5th and has been viewed by 58 million folks in the last 6 weeks.

(That’s more than twice the lifetime readership of this blog, for those of you keeping score.)

A few weeks later they landed a recording contract with Columbia. (I know what you’re thinking: why do things have to take so friggin’ long in the music biz?)

But here’s a better question for the savvy BLFR reader: is it smart for an indie band like Walk Off The Earth—who have exploited social media SO effectively with this and other videos—to sign a contract with a major record label? What can Columbia give them that they can’t get on their own? (Well, besides another guitar.)


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22 Comments

  1. Distribution, on a world wide scale, although it can be done on the 'net also, to a point. It is still best to do what the above have done, do everything you can on your own!! That is what we are doing!!
    :-)

  2. Disintermediation is where it’s at. Who needs a middleman if you’ve already achieved 58 million views in 6 weeks on YouTube and appeared on national TV (Ellen Degeneres Show) without a record deal? What can Columbia give you except an advance (which you have to pay back before you receive your piddling royalty)? WOTE can record themselves and just sign with a record distributor. I hope the band has a good contract lawyer.

    I admit that as a young rocker I would have sold my soul (whatever was left of it) to get an advance from a record company, but we were all idiots then (and financial illiterates). And there was no social media.

    Same situation for writers thinking about a major book publisher these days. No longer necessary. But I admit I’d be tempted if offered a big advance. For my first book — The Running Game — my publisher in 1980 gave me a decent first-time advance: he bought me lunch. Now once my share of book sales exceeds that $17 I’ll start making some REAL money.

  3. That is truly impressive what they have done, and a little disheartening that they signed with Columbia.

    Sort of like Ghandi buying a new pair of shoes at Walmart.

    I guess convenience is really a draw.

    In my business (creating health with diet and lifestyle changes), we talk about improving habits to reduce stress. But it's stressful to make changes, and prepare meals, compared to fast food etc.

    So I can totally relate.

    They can always leave Columbia as many artists have done when their contract is up (or before!)

    Thanks for the post...

  4. Gandhi might have trouble finding vegan shoes at Walmart. But Zappos.com could accommodate. Ironically, their call center isn't in India, but Las Vegas. (What's this world coming to?)

  5. Amazing video and Sarah is to die for! All 3 singers have great voices as well. Hard to say why anybody signs with a label these days, except that they make your life super easy with a giant advance, at least these guys undoubtably got one! The pure indie play is a shitload of work, takes a while for the cash to flow to pay your bills. Maybe smart to sign short-term deal, then bail once you're flush.

  6. Hey, since hearing the song about 4 weeks ago, in the last 24 hours I've heard it on two different (commercial) radio stations in two different cities (Boston, Burlington, VT). That's probably something that would be tough to do independently. I wonder what the signing offer was for? It could of been hard to refuse.

  7. Ken & Vic: this band is frighteningly creative. If they're lucky enough to sidestep the all-too-common young-band problems (ego conflicts, substance abuse issues, etc.) I don't see ANY limit to what they can accomplish. The videos are killer. If they were a public company I'd invest in 'em. Not sure if Columbia had anything to do with the commercial radio plays.

  8. Setting aside comments about the value of John's partly used soul, why does everyone ignore the fact that you can independently hire out the few benefits a label can provide, and on your own terms (when you're in the 60 million views realm, at least.)

    Hire one single person you really trust, and let them subcontract the rest.

    Giving up one iota of control when you don't have to is the worst possible mistake an artist can make. People sign these deals because they think they're getting something they're really not.

    Yeah, easy for me to say since I'll never sell $20 worth of art in the same month, but someday when I have 58 million views on YouTube, you can watch me to see how it's done.

  9. John, thanks for sharing this, what an extraordinarily talented group! Beyond novelty, they have the potential to transform the music - not copy-cats, but a new genre. I too am fascinated by The Signing, kind of like a Steven King pun - we will see what it brings. I bet the up-front was juicy. They will outgrow Columbia or transform them. It will be interesting to watch.

  10. Good points, everyone. (I love it when the business heavies weigh in on these threads.)

    Something tells me the band was offered more than lunch as an advance.

  11. The clip has to be lip synched. You can't get so perfect a zither strum sound North of the nut without super close miking with a small condenser and very careful plucking. Can't get that guitar or vocal sound with a couple of shitass dynamic mikes 3' in front as in the vid. No way. Notice how close-miked her vocals are. And there's no mike near her. Still, it's a cool accomplishment.

  12. Ken, it's quite a hot topic on the internet whether or not they lip-synched the clip. But they performed the song LIVE on the Ellen Degeneres Show on one guitar, and they pulled it off except for a few vocal clams (which always happens on TV). And lip-synching something like this is no small achievement, so either way they win.

  13. Cool video. I was clearly out of it as I hadn't seen it.

    Maybe a better question is what do THEY think they are getting from Columbia? Marketing and advertising? Networks and connections.

  14. With a little luck one of them will check in and tell us.

    From what I've been reading, most of them are music biz veterans, including Sarah Blackwood who has toured for 10 years, so they probably won't make the same comical blunders I did with my early bands — which I will exhaustively catalog in my book. (The good news is I've learned SO much from my past mistakes, I can now repeat them exactly.)

  15. With the post now being suficiently old for me to be able to add something with little risk of offending anyone...

    After due consideration I'm unmoved from my initial view that, based on what I've thus-far seen of 'em, this is another example of how 'that which gets the attention, often don't merit it'.

    To me, it's just another 'ooooh look - skateboarding cat on YouTube... haha-hehe' thing - which of course is the staple diet of many.

    Personally, I'm in favor of those like Clapton, Dave Matthews, Cash, Willie N, Haggard etcetera - who just turn up and play, minus the gimmickry.

  16. Thanks for sharing your always-ebullient perspective, Mr. g, but this band CAN play, in every sense of the word. First-rate musicians (which you'll see on their other vids on YouTube), good songwriters (which you can hear on "Money Tree" on iTunes), and uber-talented singers (3 lead vocalists who could each front their own band). And it doesn't hurt that they have an appealing image (Blackwood is drop-dead beautiful). But what I especially like about the band is how joyful and inventive their quasi-home videos are. This band is indie to the core (which hopefully won't change now that the Big Guys have signed em). For me they epitomize "serious play." Wanna place a wager on how big they'll get?

    1. >Wanna place a wager on how big they’ll get?

      Yep. Please. Again based on 'what I’ve thus-far seen of ‘em', (which is mainly that video and their 'positioning and business presence') my considered view remains 'Not very.' (big, they'll get), or for very long - at least while they're riding the transient-trend wagon.

      So yeah... 'no more substantial than the morning mist nor deserving of further attention'.

  17. Watch a bunch of their vids—THEN tell me how friggin' "transient" you think they'll be. Even their outtakes are great. How much are you willing to bet they WON'T have a chart hit in 2012?

    1. >How much are you willing to bet they WON’T have a chart hit in 2012?

      A single hit doesn’t have the longer-term significance to which I refer; if it did, we’d all be walking in a ‘Justin B**ber is god’ world.

      So, ‘single hit this year’ isn’t a wager I’ll accept, whilst still standing by my earlier views of ‘not deserving’…

      And I'll leave the last word on this thread to you - we've both better to be doing with our time and talent.

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