No matter what your attitudes about mp3 filesharing there’s no question about this: Among young people the RIAA’s lawsuits are tremendously unpopular. When you sue your customers for consuming your product it doesn’t earn their affection.
Now those customers are also your listeners. And given the depths of their anger this is a cause you can anchor your station around at a time when RIAA is on another legal spree.
I know what you’re thinking: But we have relationships with the labels! We can’t come out in favor of illegal downloading! Well they call it “illegal” for a reason. I don’t want you to come out in favor of anything illegal. But the principle is this: The labels should not sue their consumers. If you did a poll on this you would find vast agreement from the music-buying public at large. And these folks, not labels, are the ones who fill out the Arbitron diaries.
So here’s a way for you to keep your hands clean while supporting your audience and emerging a hero in the process:
When this issue is in the news (and only then) start a “Downloaders Defense Fund.” Have it anchored by the morning show.
Here’s the concept: Your morning show solicits contributions from listeners for a fund which will pay the fines leveled by the RIAA. When RIAA issues their clockwork lawsuits and you discover, say, a few in your market, hold a news conference with the morning show, invite the listeners being sued, and announce that the fund will be directed to pay their fines. You can specifically note that in no way are you condoning illegal downloading, but likewise in no way are you condoning the behavior of the RIAA.
What you achieve:
– You’re a hero to the audience – You have illustrated that the RIAA is suing a bunch of kids, which makes RIAA look like an evil corporate behemoth – You have genuinely helped listeners in tangible ways – You communicate that you care more about the music than about the labels – just like your audience does – You have created a genuinely newsworthy publicity event that is likely to get local TV coverage – You get your morning team on TV – You wrap your station around a cause that’s very important to an influential section of your audience (assuming you’re in a music-involved format and targeting 12-34 year-olds) – You have created considerable positive audience word-of-mouth
Go to it.