Tag Archives: youtube

Loose Lips Syncing Shifts

"Wax Lips" courtesy of Red Clover

Back in the 80’s, MTV was cutting edge. To many of us growing up back then, music videos were as much a part of the soundtrack to our lives as the music itself.

Inspired, my high school class produced its own music video; a lip syncing production of Devo’s We’re Through Being Cool which was seen by less than a thousand people at my school’s annual musical revue. [Note to Roslyn High alums, please send me a copy and I will post it here!]. Today, kids produce lip dubs in just a few hours and mass distribute them to millions worldwide through viral video websites like YouTube.

Here’s a lip dub of I Gotta Feeling by The Black Eyed Peas. A couple of kids from the University of Quebec, Montreal (UQAM) shot this video with 172 students in one take and one rehearsal.

Here’s “the making of” video of the UQAM lip dub [Subsequently blocked by UMG. I can’t figure why of the two, Universal Music Group chose to block the “making of” footage and not the lip dub itself. Updated: January 21, 2012]:

Here’s the original music video produced by The Black Eyed Peas.
I prefer the UQAM students’ take.

Of course, lip dubbing raises all sorts of legal issues concerning copyright, fair use and commercial exploitation of works owned by others. Apparently, the students didn’t clear the music though I suspect the cost of doing so would have been prohibitive.

So are mass distributed, viral lip dubs bad or good for the music business? The band? Do they cut into or promote market share? Do they dilute the promotional power of the band? [Ed. Note: Don’t ask me about this last one. I hear this argument from label reps every time I negotiate with them.]

With over 3 million hits on YouTube and publicity from news outlets and blogs like this one, The Black Eyed Peas could never have garnered that kind of exposure on their own. YouTube’s Audio ID program can link lip dubs and other user generated content on its website to online buyers of the band’s music. That kind of Internet exploitation should be music to the industry’s ears.

[UPDATE: January 18, 2010:] As reported on The Trademark Blog, Capitol Records sued Vimeo in Federal Court on December 10, 2009 for copyright infringement from the site’s exploitation of lip dubs.

Complaint Capitol v Vimeo

According to The Trademark Blog, Capitol needs to persuade the Court not to follow Io Group v. Veoh or UMG v. Veoh. These cases held that file sharing services like Vimeo are not liable for the creative (and arguably infringing) activities of their users.

As I wrote earlier, the music industry needs to have an honest and public discussion about whether such uses actually promote or dilute the value of their works. So far, I haven’t seen any proof one way or the other. In the end, it might not matter. People will continue to find creative and novel ways to exploit existing works despite the risks. It’s incumbent on the music industry to figure out a way to squeeze some profit for themselves out of that.

Grass Roots Licensing Of Youtube Fare

My kids turned me on to “Charlie The Unicorn” shortly after it made its debut on youtube several years ago. Like most user generated content, Charlie, a flash animated 2D short, was made on a shoestring and the production values reflect that. Still, the work is smart, funny and quotable in the vein of Caddyshack and The Simpsons.

Charlie has been viewed over 35 million times worldwide and spawned a sequel.

Still, I wasn’t really intrigued until I visited Hot Topic, a teen-oriented store in my local mall, and spotted Charlie merchandise.

Plenty of talented (and not so talented) folks make shorts and distribute them on youtube. Far fewer generate millions of views or eyeballs; and only a handful of those successfully make the jump to ancillary exploitation.

Whether Charlie’s creator is making meaningful revenues isn’t really the point (nor is the aesthetic value of such a work).

Charlie’s transition from youtube short to retail merchandise represents nothing less than a sea change in the ability of a single content creator to leverage the internet and its potential access to millions to build a following and potentially profit from ancillary and derivative exploitation of content without the need or prohibitive expense of traditional distribution channels.

It means that self-distribution is now a meaningful and sustainable distribution alternative and will become even more so as internet based distribution (e.g., faster downloads) matures.

It means that traditional distributors better figure out how to stay relevant (hint: content marketing not content distribution) or get out of the way.

Just ask the people who (used to) work in the music business.

Lennon Reloaded

The “One Laptop per Child” Foundation released a television commercial on Christmas Day of John Lennon – almost 30 years after his assassination – pitching viewers to buy laptops for poor children.

The Foundation produced the spot using digital technology; creating an ersatz version of Lennon saying “I tried to do it through my music, but now you can do it in a very different way. You can give a child a laptop and more than imagine, you can change the world.”

Variations on the technology have been around for years. Michael Crichton predicted the advent of the technology in “Looker” in 1981. In 1995, I cited Crichton’s work when I wrote about the use of digital technology to reanimate deceased celebrities in new works – and the possible legal complications – here.

Although the ethical and business dilemmas of using digital automatons instead of real actors are still in flux, the legal issues remain the same. The commercial exploitation of dead celebrities requires the consent of the celebrity’s estate. In this case, Yoko Ono, Lennon’s widow approved the spot.

When I wrote my article in 1995, the infinite possibility of the internet was largely unknown to the public. Our understanding of its potential now combined with advances in digital reanimation technology will only bring these issues to the forefront.

You can find out more about One Laptop Per Child’s donation program here.

No Strike Waivers For TV Yet But Web Start Ups Tempt Writers


Variety’s Dave McNary reported that the WGA rejected requests for strike waivers by the Golden Globes and Oscar telecasts today. While the Guild granted waivers during the strike in 1988, I doubt they will now- even to Letterman and Leno -until and unless meaningful negotiations resume for two reasons. Awards shows present a high profile opportunity to make an adverse and very public impact on the quality of these telecasts. Secondly, any waiver now, absent meaningful negotiations and in the face of mounting holiday debts for WGA members, may erode the widespread support of Guild members to the cause.

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The LA Times ran a story that striking writers are in talks with venture capitalists to finance and launch Internet start-up companies. “Silicon Valley investors historically have been averse to backing entertainment start-ups, believing that such efforts were less likely to generate huge paydays than technology companies.” There’s been a change in that perspective, albeit a limited one, after the success of Youtube. I’ve been involved in several of these deals. One started just before the strike and was in production as late as last week. They’re interesting opportunities on the cutting edge of where the entertainment business appears to be headed. However, without the right business model, these ventures will – if they go anywhere – lead to cross-over deals for TV programming rather than a big pay day for an Internet venture. It reminds me of Web 1.0’s icebox.com or my stint with Film Roman’s Level 13 back in the day. Despite the risks, more and more of my clients are migrating to the Internet, if not for the potential payoff then for a chance to broaden their experience and marketability down the road.