Commentary

Here's An Idea: Let's Insult and Offend the Consumer

In its years-long effort to fight music piracy, have record labels ever made a good move with consumers? Courtesy of Peter Kafka at All Things D, we came upon what has to be the least effective tactic yet. This is the kind of bone-headed marketing approach that seems designed to make you feel good about whatever failings your own your strategy may suffer. It goes wrong on so many levels.

Victory Records has issued a kind of PSA video featuring the relentlessly and professionally annoying Gilbert Gottfried. Gottfried has his uses, to be sure. He is good in three second bursts of commentary on TV tripe like "Top 100 Celebrity Palimony Suits." Put Gilbert in a corner of the screen after a choice clip setting up the story and maybe he will blurt a quasi-clever "what was he thinking" line. Cut! Cue Danny Bonaduce. In extended rants, Gottfried wears thin fast.

And so why Victory Records would enlist him to go on for more than two minutes about the stupidity of music piracy is anyone's guess. First, he insults the audience. Ostensibly arguing that excuses of pirating music are ill-considered at best and lame-brained at worst, the entire video sets the view up as straw man. Gottfried suggests that you try telling McDonalds your meal should be free because you think they are a billion dollar corporation that can afford to give stuff away free. And what would McDonald's say in response to your request? "F**k You!" Gottfried insists, and this become the refrain throughout the ad.

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So let's get this straight. In order to fight piracy, the record labels have dragged consumers into court, sued every Web tech company they could find, and have given music lovers everywhere a big "F**k You" when consumers complained about the tactics. So why not spew profanity and suggest that consumers are delusional or stupid or both?

Surely someone at Victory Records thought that Gottfried's signature ranting would wrap the sharp edges of the core argument with the padding of good humor. Not really. Instead, Gottfried succeeds in being tedious within the first fifteen seconds and painful to watch before we are a minute. This is the kind of consumer lobbying effort you only show to captivate audiences; not people armed with a mouse and a Stop button.

And just to underscore how much regard Victory seems to have for the views of its own customers on this issue - "Adding comments has been disabled for this video," reads the YouTube page for the clip on Victory's YouTube channel. Shut up and watch.

What is next in the music industry's campaign to endear itself to consumers? The Ludovico Technique from Clockwork Orange? Prop our eyelids up to absorb propaganda videos that will make us nauseous at the thought of copying a Miley Cyrus CD? No wait, I don't think it's the Ludovico Treatment doing that.

14 comments about "Here's An Idea: Let's Insult and Offend the Consumer".
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  1. The digital Hobo from TheDigitalHobo.com, October 22, 2010 at 1:26 p.m.

    Nobody has accused the labels of being smart. This is just more proof.

    Why don't they just tell consumers that pirated tracks will blow up their iPods? Jeeeez.

  2. Mai Kok from So What, October 22, 2010 at 1:26 p.m.

    I can't wait to the see the slow deathly end of the RIAA. They are useless. The customer is always right because we pay the money. Since we now deem that music is worth $0, time for them to find a new way.

    Oh, the argument that it's content, it's intellectual property? Well, everyone has ideas. Can you turn those ideas into marketable products is what separates winners from losers.

    The RIAA is like one of those NYC street musicians:
    "Hey check out my music!"
    "OK, here is a free sample now that will be $10"
    "What do you mean you're not paying? Then why did I make this for?"
    "Gimmee money!"

    To the RIAA and all their ilk: please die.

  3. Les Blatt from Freelance New Media Person, October 22, 2010 at 1:35 p.m.

    You neglected to mention the fact that this clown has a voice that sounds remarkably like fingernails scraping across a blackboard, which sets off a really unpleasant physical reaction. Hey, why not abuse the customer physically as long as you're going to insult and abuse him verbally? Another in a long line of truly awful ideas from the music industry.

  4. Jim Lillicotch from Lillicotch.com, October 22, 2010 at 1:39 p.m.

    Just more proof that artists don't need these clowns any more.

  5. Stephen Shearin from ionBurst Media, October 22, 2010 at 1:46 p.m.

    Wow. Weak analogy and poor delivery. Well done music industry. Very effective.

  6. Mark Burrell from Tongal, October 22, 2010 at 1:48 p.m.

    that's going to make kids go on a mission to steal music

  7. Catherine Wachs, October 22, 2010 at 2:04 p.m.

    Wrong message, wrong spokesperson. New reality for the music biz: give free music and make money on concerts and merchandise. (See OK Go).

  8. Benjamin Bloom from bsbnyc.net, October 22, 2010 at 2:26 p.m.

    Fantastic spoof of the futile and customer-alienating ads on this topic was from the BBC's "The IT Crowd" a few years ago:
    http://www.metacafe.com/watch/808656/it_crowd_anti_piracy/

  9. David Hawthorne from HCI LearningWorks, October 22, 2010 at 2:35 p.m.

    Try building an app instead that let's you make as many copies as you want, and encodes a $1 off coupon for any concert ticket, piece of licensed memorabilia, or other licensed promotion by the authorized by the record company and its artist. The buyer who registers the app becomes an authorized "promotion agent." When the cookie or 'cracker' (my coinage for that code that tracks back to person who registered it) the registered agent gets 1/10th of a cent for each refund that can be 'cracked back' to copies s/he distributed. Everyone makes a little somethin'. And the artists is 'free' to love the 'fans.'

  10. Tom Collins from Windsor Media Enterprises, Inc., October 22, 2010 at 4:40 p.m.

    So, just to mention one more piece of stupidity here, these morons disable comments on the YouTube page, but allow any blogger on the planet to embed the video and host the RIAA-bashing comments in 1,000s of places all over the web.

    I guess they think if they're not looking at it, it must not be happening, eh?

    And oh, btw, McDonald's and many other retail companies give away lots of their products as samples, donations, etc., to get you to buy other stuff (or more of the same stuff) later. Just as John Mayer and others are doing with music. So the central premise of their argument is false to begin with.

  11. Paula Lynn from Who Else Unlimited, October 22, 2010 at 6:12 p.m.

    Radio. Unpaid with ads or paid subs.

  12. Cece Forrester from tbd, October 22, 2010 at 6:40 p.m.

    Not so very different from threatening to sic the FBI on people who have legitimately bought your movie DVD, or slicing with shards of plastic the hands of customers attempting to open your packaged electronic gear at home. Being part of the inferior masses, they naturally share guilt with actual thieves (even if we haven't quite figured out how yet) and so deserve to be insulted on top of being overcharged.

  13. Jerry Foster from Energraphics, October 25, 2010 at 3:07 a.m.

    Wow. I don't know where to begin. Did they really say "For those of you with jobs out there....and I know that's doubtful"? Did they really say, almost directly, that they would like to say "F You" to everyone who downloads a song for free? Them is fighting words...

    Labels need more web outlets where songs are available for 99 cents or less. But generally they should know that we've been taping songs off the radio for 70 years (including our parents).

    Like in the fairly recent past (2 or 3 generations ago), music profits will probably have to go back to live performances where taped performances are free.

    Nobody should be allowed to make money off performances without paying royalties to the original artists...but downloading by individuals of second-hand tapes for their own non-profit use is never going to be stopped.

    Regarding films: Hollywood continues to blow it by not making films available internationally within days of the premier. I wanted to pay to see "The Social Network" especially as it took an entire week for pirates to get with the program and make it available for free.

    But pirates beat the studios. A week passed and the film was not yet available for a $3.95 download. Cam-rips suddenly became widely available. Tens of millions of people overseas have probably seen the film by now.

    And Hollywood should note this: Licensed versions of their films are often poorer quality than the pirate versions. They tend to work in fewer computers (I suspect the studios deliberately make their licensed versions not work in computers) and they tend to have annoying commercials that cannot be avoided.

    Its pathetic to let pirates "greatly improve the lemonade" they steal.

  14. Joe Bretz from Digi Dev Group., October 25, 2010 at 10:48 p.m.

    Wow - VERY early 2000's! If the labels - what is left of em anyway - Just as Janet Jackson once sang, "The BEST THINGS in life are FREE", embrace piracy and use it to BUILD. Most of the guys who ripped off the artists in the first place now own equity in many "Piracy enhanced" operations.

    RIAA (Rip OFF all ARTISTS)- ya.

    (all this coming from a guy who actually prefers to PAY for his music)

    Joe Q. Bretz

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