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Trouble in Entertainment Paradise

Posted At: September 24, 2010 9:20 AM
by Miah Evans

In recent years, the music industry has taken a hard hit with illegal downloads and unrestricted access. According to Wacholtz’s Off The Record: The New Music Business Guide, there are more than 20 billion illegal downloads each year or more than 2 million per hour. Fifty-one percent of digital downloads and things such as 360 deals, which are deals that allow labels to profit large sums, are increasingly prevalent. Artists are suffering more as their creative works are disseminated through various streams without cost or accountability. Public relations professionals have extra weight on their shoulders as they step to this challenge.

After compiling media kits, scheduling interviews, booking venues and dealing with other logistics, PR professionals are now assigned to creating more intense campaigns and finding better ways to effectively communicate with consumers.

“Our first responsibility is to make sure that the public is aware of all legal outlets,” Cindy Heath, founder of Monarch Publicity in Nashville, Tenn., said. “When marketing any product, it’s important to communicate with consumers and let them know when, where and how the product is available. We want consumers to be clouded with information from the real source above anything else.”

As employees in the music industry, public relations professionals circulate information on local, regional and national levels. The goal is to interact with consumers and give them opportunities to legally acquire new downloads and other products. A successful campaign will directly address the artist-consumer relationship by engaging an audience and focusing consumers’ attention on record label sites, concerts, blogs, store signings, social media sites, TV appearances, radio show interviews and other methods of communication. In turn, consumers should seek more appropriate channels of obtaining music and other industry products.

According to the Institute for Policy Innovation, global music piracy causes $12.5 billion in economic losses every year, 71,060 U.S. jobs lost and a loss of $2.7 billion in workers’ earnings. PR professionals are not alone in combating the illegal downloading issue, as the Obama administration is taking extra measures as well.

As a recent post on the White House blog stated, “Our ability to develop new technology, designs and artistic works supports jobs and allows us to export great new products and services around the world. Our citizens need to feel confident that they can invest in new innovation and intellectual property, knowing it will be safe from theft.”

In addition, according to the White House blog, as of June 22, 2010, the administration has implemented several strategies to fight online-based copyright infringement. These strategies include closely examining foreign-based websites that provide access to illegal downloading and pirated products, and also enforcing stricter policies to protect American intellectual property in the global economy.

PR professionals in the music industry to must be more familiar with intellectual property, copyright laws, case trends and organizations such as the RIAA, Recording Industry Association of America. Members of the RIAA are protected under an umbrella effort to promote intellectual property rights and First Amendment rights for artists.

Employers in the music industry make strong statements when seeking and hiring public relations professionals. Having one college course involving media law just isn’t enough.

“If you can’t confidently discuss hot-button issues like copyright law, your understanding of our evolving industry is incomplete,” Kay Clary, senior director of media relations at Broadcast Media Inc., stated. “Ideally, all members of the creative community should strike a balance between the artistic and the schematic, the past and the future: Harness new digital-delivery potential even as you investigate vinyl. Salivate over a new band even as you dig deeper into Chuck Berry’s catalog.”

Contrary to industry stereotypes, public relations professionals must be well-rounded in knowledge and skill. In addition to being an effective researcher, writer and strategist, a PR professional must also possess in-depth familiarity of law and copyright concerns to be successful in the music industry.

With all of the new attention and measures being taken, do you think illegal downloading can finally be kept under control? Or is it too large to tame?


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