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Beastie Boys, GoldieBlox & Broad City

December 23, 2013 YouTube No Comments

GoldieBlox-image-1024x721About a month ago, toy company GoldieBlox created a viral hit with an ad featuring a fascinating Rube Goldberg setup and a parody song of the Beastie Boys’ “Girls” as the soundtrack. GoldieBlox makes toys marketed towards girls that break out of the stereotypically gendered ones normally seen in stores, encouraging the growth of women participating in science, technology, engineering and math careers (STEM). Their video ad’s success on YouTube and beyond came on the heels of a successful Kickstarter campaign and garnered them millions of eyeballs on their products and message.

However, if you go to their channel now, you’ll notice that the version of the video there is quite different from the one I linked to above. Why is that? Well, sometime around Thanksgiving, this happened:

When we made our parody version of your song, ‘Girls’, we did it with the best of intentions. We wanted to transform it into a powerful anthem for girls. Over the past week, parents have sent us pictures and videos of their kids singing with pride, building their own Rube Goldberg machines in their living rooms and declaring an interest in engineering. It’s been incredible to watch.

Our hearts sank last week when your lawyers called us with threats that we took very seriously. As a small company, we had no choice but to stand up for ourselves. We did so sincerely hoping we could come to a peaceful settlement with you.

We want you to know that when we posted the video, we were completely unaware that the late, great Adam Yauch had requested in his will that the Beastie Boys songs never be used in advertising. Although we believe our parody video falls under fair use, we would like to respect his wishes and yours.

The Beastie Boys had a problem with the parody of their song. This is actually when I first heard about it at Skepchick, one of my favorite blogs. This story has gone back and forth in the press, but GoldieBlox ended up filing a suit calling for injunctive relief. As far as my reading of Wikipedia goes and some other commentary I’ve read, this basically means they sued to get a court to say they weren’t doing anything wrong. The remaining Beastie Boys responded with an open letter of their own:

Like many of the millions of people who have seen your toy commercial “GoldieBlox, Rube Goldberg & the Beastie Boys,” we were very impressed by the creativity and the message behind your ad. We strongly support empowering young girls, breaking down gender stereotypes and igniting a passion for technology and engineering.

As creative as it is, make no mistake, your video is an advertisement that is designed to sell a product, and long ago, we made a conscious decision not to permit our music and/or name to be used in product ads. When we tried to simply ask how and why our song “Girls” had been used in your ad without our permission, YOU sued US.

Last year, the Beastie Boys lost member Adam Yauch to cancer. Later, Rolling Stone reported that his will stipulated that none of his music was to be used in “for advertising purposes.” It appears in the above that the remaining Beastie Boys were honoring this as well. The status of the suit is still pending and Fortune comments that it will likely never go to trial, but also goes on to talk about how damages might be determined if it did.

So how does the comedy web series Broad City come into play? Growing out of the vibrant Upright Citizen’s Brigade comedy troupe, the series gained a small following on YouTube. Amy Poehler is now set to be executive producer of the show at Comedy Central, where it will begin airing in January. And that’s how it came to my attention between segments of The Daily Show. It took me a second while watching the commercial for Broad City, but I quickly noticed the music: “Ch-Check It Out” by the Beastie Boys.

Now, it’s conceivable that this is actually a sketch for which the music was licensed which was then turned around for use as a commercial, but that would seem to still run afoul of both Adam Yauch’s will and the stated wishes of the Beastie Boys as reported in the press.

What do you think?

Better Know a Country by Its YouTube Stats: San Marino

November 25, 2013 YouTube No Comments


Last time we covered Belize, where over 6% of the country’s population visited us that month. This month San Marino ups the ante, sending over 8% of its citizens to watch videos with content from The Orchard.

So far 2,200 Sanmarinese have watched our videos over 6,000 times. Our visitors from the enclaved republic in the Northeast of Italy are mainly interested in videos of goings-on in San Marino. Unsurprisingly for a country founded by monastics in 301 CE, many of these views have gone to a video showing the daily procession of monks.

One thing I find odd about this country’s viewers is their lack of attention span. It’s one of the lowest I’ve seen, at 22% or so. The demographics also skew older, in the 45 – 54 range. If I were attempting to capture the interest of more of San Marino’s 30,000 inhabitants, I’d probably focus on local content. For instance, if I were a band that really wanted to tour here, I’d produce a promo video with a slideshow of beautiful Sanmarinese mountainsides. I don’t guarantee that this will work, but there does appear to be a strong patriotic flavor to their viewing habits!

I wouldn’t expect anyone to ‘like’ what you create, though. Very few visitors are interacting with videos on any level other than watching. Almost no likes and no favorites added. A grand total of three people said anything at all in comments and only 15 decided to share something. In my estimation it would probably be harder to corner the market in San Marino than it looks. It’s definitely a place worth a visit, but it’s probably not who you’re trying to reach on YouTube.

Take a look at your YouTube Analytics to find out how you can similarly adjust your strategy for a specific market.

Better Know a Country by Its YouTube Stats: Belize

November 5, 2013 YouTube No Comments

belizeWhen 6% of a nation’s population visits your videos on YouTube in a month, you take notice. Enter Belize! 8,800 square miles of tropical paradise filled with jungle and reefs which exports petroleum and plantains, two things which start with P. In October, 80,000 views of content from The Orchard came via Belize. While I’m not sure what’s stressing our Belizean friends out, I know it must be something, because our most popular content there is lengthy chillout and relaxation mixes.

Another thing the folks from Belize love also starts with a P: Nigerian Hip Hop duo P-Square. Their new release “Personally” was our top content for the territory last month. The largely older male audience is really into rhymes from the continent across the Atlantic. Quite a lot of them are watching on mobile phones, though the computer still offers the lion’s share of views.

People in Belize are also generally very friendly, liking videos 20 times more than disliking them. As many as 50 favorites were added and almost 100 shares, mostly for P-Square.

I highlighted these stats to show that working on YouTube is not always about serious best practices and crossing off items on checklists. Often a fun part of the work is digging into the data and seeing where it goes. This can influence how you publish video, what kind of videos you’re making, how you interact with fans and where you do your marketing. Sometimes you’ll find anomalies in the data and upon further inspection you’ll have discovered a novel tactic or strategy growing out of that data. In this instance, I might take a wider look at P-Square’s performance and might find that we can grow an engaged, revenue-generating audience by targeting some advertising to YouTube users there.

Or I might just call it a day and visit the Great Blue Sinkhole in Belize.

Labels, Promote Artist Channels on Your YouTube Channel

September 23, 2013 YouTube 1 Comment

png;base6452676119c3705baOne of the key value propositions in artists signing to a label is the marketing and promotion a label brings to any project. Theoretically, the label represents numerous artists and, at least originally, serves as a vital curator of specific genres of music for the consumer. The label builds up its brand equity through signing great acts and new artists borrow from that brand equity when they’re launched by the label. Viewing the use case of YouTube through this prism, there hasn’t been a great mechanism to do this in any YouTube design since its inception. Featured channels have been the most visible, but can potentially be ignored while most of the other features that can help with cross-promotion are sometimes ineffectual.

YouTube has just rolled out what they call “Cross-Promotion Sections.” In essence, these are sections built in response to the need for better cross-promotion from networks which inherently serve to drive traffic to another channel, or content not present on the channel being visited. In some way, they have brought back the featured video from last year’s channel design by allowing you to create a section on your home page populated entirely by a playlist link. This functionality would allow you to feature a playlist from one of your artist’s channels on your more popular label channel (or vice versa if you’re in that boat).

Another new type of section is the “Multi-Channel Section.” Employ this feature and you could list all of your artist channels as a section on your label channel. Their avatars will show up bigger than they do in the existing featured channels functionality. While I don’t have any data on the efficacy of these sections yet, my supposition is that they’ll be better traffic drivers. When you’re adding a section to your channel page, simply select the “Channels” option. You can see an example over at HBO’s channel.

How I Got Certified in Cat Videos

September 9, 2013 Orchard News, YouTube No Comments

YouTubeAn eternity ago (okay it was only four months ago, but that’s an eternity for streaming video), I attended one of the first certification sessions offered by YouTube. After the course, I took the exam, passed with flying colors, and can now joke about being certified in cat videos. The end.

Perhaps it was a little more involved than that.

YouTube began beta testing the certification program in late 2012. The idea is similar to Google’s other professional certifications for products like AdWords and DFP, and other certifications for things like agile methodology or database administration. A certification provides training and a standard framework and language around a key concept or area of expertise. This increases the competency level of the industry around that certification and allows for more efficient communication between professionals working in that specific space.

As one of the top ten networks on the platform, YouTube invited The Orchard to send three staffers for one of the initial rounds in Santa Monica this past March. Myself and my colleagues Sarah Caliendo and Gabriella Cantwell took off to a California that ended up being not so sunny that week. The certification training took place over the course of two days hosted at Tastemade Studios. Let me tell you, these guys were great hosts and added real charm to something that could end up being kinda corporate. The premier food network on YouTube provided breakfast, lunch, snacks, and cocktails (evening only!) which were fantastic.

On the first day, we arrived and walked into the session area. It was very cool being seated in the middle of one of their soundstages. In front was a green screen area, to the right a kitchen set, to the left a bakery set, and behind us a bar set. As I recall, there were about a dozen other companies there with us, including some of the largest networks, partners, media, and entertainment companies. The seating was novel, too, as each group from each company ended up getting split and working with people from other companies. Also funny in a couple of instances where competitors had to work on each other’s channels!

Over the course of the next two days, employees from various YouTube departments walked us through a ton of concepts key to success on YouTube and beyond. In fact a lot of the programming and audience development concepts aren’t all that specific to YouTube and come from the last 50 years of television and radio. We covered YouTube’s product roadmap, audience development strategy, best practices for networks such as ours, copyright and rights management, as well as ads and monetization. The training was peppered with breakout sessions to actually work on some of these concepts either in theory or on our own channels. With 30 – 40 people in the room, this got a bit noisy, but it was interesting to overhear everyone else working out concepts.

There was also ample opportunity to meet other professionals in the space. During both days, there were breaks and snack breaks where we chatted with people from across the industry. This was one aspect I really enjoyed, especially during the cocktail hour at the end of the first day. Of course I can’t turn down some good wine and conversation! Many companies in different industries compared notes and traded ideas on programming and advertising. As well, those of us in music were able to regale and confuse our new non-music friends about just how complex dealing with music content is on YouTube.

Certification officially closes out upon completion of the exam. This is taken online and runs through dozens of questions which you have two hours to answer once you begin. I found it a bit grueling, but also fun because the way most of the questions work forces you to think about the subject matter. Often there’s not a single right answer when it comes to YouTube and sometimes you have to forge your own.

Sarah and Gabriella also nailed the test and became certified. In addition, Gabriella represents an advanced certification in audio rights management. Since that time, we’ve also added certifications for Ben Markowitz, Mike Baldo and Oz Okter, which allowed us to become a YouTube Certified Partner. There are only currently about 40 companies across three regions certified like this and The Orchard is one of only a handful to have a worldwide presence. Soon we will be adding five more certifications and three more advanced audio certifications to the team. Then everyone can add a fancy badge to their signatures.

I’m looking forward to getting re-certified next March!

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