MP3.com vs. RIAA
Charting the future of public relations
Holmes Report
CEO

MP3.com vs. RIAA

Upon announcement and unveiling of the My.MP3.com service, the company expected a major lawsuit and anticipated a potential crisis with its audience of listeners and artists.

Paul Holmes

  In January 2000, ‘My.MP3.com’ was created by the company to change the way consumers listened to their music; but it also detonated an explosion throughout the record industry.  The Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA) was determined to undermine MP3.com’s efforts to provide free music via the Internet.  Upon announcement and unveiling of the My.MP3.com service, the company expected a major lawsuit and anticipated a potential crisis with its audience of listeners and artists.
 
OBJECTIVES
 
Manage issues and crises associated with My.MP3.com. 
 
Establish a strategic plan and tactics that encompass all aspects of the anticipated impact of this and other issues that might prove challenging in the near future. 
 
Strengthen the public affairs and corporate public relations capabilities of MP3.com now and into the future.
 
Larger corporate objective: Elevate corporate/brand awareness and establish MP3.com as the industry leader not only in the Internet music industry but also in the larger music industry as a whole. 
 
Champion company as leading proponent of artists’ rights and as giving maximum freedom of choice to music consumers.
 
STRATEGIES
 
Agency team relocated to the company's headquarters to develop and implement a PR strategy that would enable MP3.com to have the most control over its content while minimizing the Recording Industry Association of America’s (RIAA) messaging.
 
One week prior to the scheduled launch date, GCI’s team strategized to gain third-party alliances from industry luminaries, market analysts and influential copyright lawyers.
 
To tightly manage the service's messaging, GCI Group offered the story to The New York Times two days before the scheduled launch date, enabling the paper to conduct a detailed interview with Michael Robertson, CEO of MP3.com, as well as with the company's third-party references.
 
For larger corporate objective:  GCI Group created positioning and messaging of MP3.com as a company that was dramatically changing how music is delivered and experienced.  GCI Group submitted MP3.com for such awards as Upside’s ‘E-business 100’ around that positioning, touting the company as ‘an alternative to traditional music  distribution, promotion and sales that has attracted the attention and support of such artists as Tom Petty, Alanis Morisette and Tori Amos.’
 
RESULTS
 
On announcement day, The New York Times published its favorable article around the same time that MP3.com dropped its press release. 
 
GCI Group managed more than 20 interviews with top-tier business, entertainment and technology publications, and managed a dial-in press conference for all remaining second-tier media.
 
The story ran in more than 40 publications, including The Boston Globe, Business Week, Newsweek, Rolling Stone, USA Today and The Wall Street Journal
 
All of the publications led with MP3.com's key messages.
 
Immediately following the launch of My.MP3.com, GCI Group managed legal briefings to plan and develop a ‘canned’ statement per scenario. 
 
When the RIAA issued its lawsuit against MP3.com, the company dropped its canned statement on the wire and did not immediately grant media interviews, forcing the press to use MP3.com's messaging. 
 
GCI Group first offered MP3.com's litigation story to The Wall Street Journal, which provided the company with a front-page technology section article placement that led with MP3.com's messaging. 
 
GCI Group then managed more than 20 top-tier interviews with leading business, entertainment and technology reporters. 
 
The majority of the coverage followed The Wall Street Journal's lead, and began the article with MP3.com's messaging. 
 
Press and analysts, as well as artists and listeners began to see MP3.com as a truly innovative force in the music industry, bringing one of the widest selections of music to enthusiasts, while offering artists a genuine alternative to promotion and distribution. 
 
MP3.com had approximately 150 new bands registering on the site each day, realized an estimated 200,000 downloads each day, experienced an estimated 500,000 visitors each day, compiled a library in excess of 130,000 songs, and had established nine primary and 270 sub-genres of music.
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