Hard slog put music on the right track

When Alain Levy, the chief executive of music company EMI, had an article published in the Financial Times last week it confirmed a turnaround.

A few years ago EMI and other traditional music companies seemed doomed as people found they could download music for free. Levy's article was upbeat as he mapped out his firm's potential to provide music to be downloaded.

But this was possible because the file-sharing sites were in retreat.

Behind this is a remarkable PR triumph. True, the first public signs that the file-sharing sites could be curbed came when the music companies succeeded in a series of copyright legal actions which made it clear that the sites would be acting illegally if they continued to facilitate pirating.

Yet what turned the tide in favour of EMI, and the other traditional music companies, was the change in public attitude.

A few years ago file sharing was seen by the public as mischievous but harmless and the record companies were fair game. Now the mood has changed.

Though file sharing still exists, it is generally recognised as unfair to the artists and to the companies who have discovered them and brought them to market. This was achieved by hard slog, not fancy PR stunts.

Articles were written pointing out the unfairness of free downloading, politicians and the public were lobbied, all the opportunities to make the case in public were seized and the willingness to litigate underlined the industry's determination to press its case. Patient explanation of the facts and the arguments repeated at every opportunity got the message across to an audience that probably did not want to hear it. This is a success which should give hope to other businesses that have their own mountains to climb.

- Anthony Hilton is City commentator on London's Evening Standard.

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