Written by Anonymous
Edited by Gregory Bartolomei
As everyone knows, the music industry has been in a constant state of turmoil since the start of the new millennium. The digital revolution of music has changed how we find, listen to and acquire music- and unfortunately for record companies, many consumers have chosen to find, listen to and acquire music illegally and for free. While an unfortunate minority are convicted of music piracy, busting a few of the millions upon millions of people who illegally download music is no easy process, hence the reason most of us ‘pirates’ (including myself) are still living our normal lives, unaffected by the monumental losses of the record companies as we enjoy our impressively extensive iTunes libraries.
As an avid music fan, I am aware that pirating music is wrong, however my conscience is not very heavy. I suppose this is a result of the pervasiveness of pirating music coupled with my own personal apathy towards those oh so wretched record companies, who are often painted as being run by greedy capitalists with little integrity or care for producing quality music (again, as an avid music fan this particularly irks me as my ears are constantly bombarded by their second-rate products). Who knows how accurate this perception actually is, but clearly it is pervasive enough to prevent most people from feeling remorse over pirating music.
So how can these record companies appear more likeable, or more importantly, make people care enough about them and their artists to actually buy their products instead of stealing them? Apparently Universal Music Group thinks Justin Bieber may have the answer.
In the Wall Street Journal article “Some Sales from Bieber’s new CD go to Charity,” Justin Bieber claims to be “the first artist on the Universal Music roster to have part of his album sales benefit charity.”(Fekadu) “Universal never actually allowed money from the album to go to charity, so it’s kind of a unique thing and I’m very happy and proud of what we’ve done,” says Bieber.
Looking back, record companies have never typically been known for their philanthropic endeavors. But Justin Bieber’s upcoming Christmas album, (banally) titled “Under the Mistletoe,” out November 1st, may be a good place to start for Universal Music- however I doubt it is as genuine of a gesture from Universal than it is from Bieber.
The fact that Universal had never actually donated a portion of an album’s sales to charity before likely implies that Universal never considered giving out charity like this necessary or worthwhile. When music sales were good, people likely bought the music by artists they enjoyed, regardless of their opinions of the record company (if they even had any). Over the past decade or so, as music sales have declined, record companies are likely too frugal to justify donating part of their sales to charity, especially if they believed it was primarily the consumer’s interest in an artist that determined sales. In both cases, Universal’s lack of philanthropic endeavors over the years implies a resistance from the company’s stockholders (a primary stakeholder) whose power, legitimacy and urgency within the company has likely given them the right to decide for the company not to sacrifice profits for charity, as they had little reason to.
But now, things have gotten bad enough that Justin Bieber’s innocent desire to help the needy with his upcoming Christmas album could be a decent sales ploy, and give the ailing record company and its stockholders some humanity.
However, according to the article, “Bieber said he isn’t sure how much of the sales will go to charity, but thanks his team for helping him achieve his goal of wanting to help others during the holiday season.”(Fekadu) The fact that Bieber could not even give an estimate of how much of his album sales would go to charity likely implies that the percentage is pretty low. But the actual percentage doesn’t really matter- as long as Universal Music is able to frame their philanthropic contributions by making the positive aspects of their deeds more salient, they can surely make a small contribution look like a relatively hefty one, hopefully boosting Bieber’s album sales as well as their own image.
While my beliefs about the record company’s intent are purely speculation (though I don’t think I am far off), I think the decision to donate part of Bieber’s new album sales to charity is a valid decision by management. Except for some lost profits, this charity could do a lot of good for the company. Donating part of album sales to charity should definitely engender some good will, inspire some people to buy instead of steal, and even encourage some consumers to buy albums they would not have originally considered buying, as they are for a good cause. But if Universal is really interested in pushing this whole philanthropic image as a record company, they have got to flaunt their efforts and frame them in the right way to the public to boost sales and get the results they want. Although due to recent events, Bieber may have to start flaunting his philanthropic efforts more now as well.
Earlier this week, 20 year-old Mariah Yeater accused Bieber of impregnating her backstage after one of his concerts last year (in a mere 30 seconds to boot), and has filed a lawsuit against the artist demanding financial support. While Bieber’s camp has feverishly denied the allegations, the artist has yet to take a paternity test, so the legitimacy of Yeater’s claims are still unclear. (Stern) Whether the allegations are true or not, Bieber’s image is already in jeopardy. Until the truth comes out, people will begin to doubt Bieber and his image- is he really the wholesomely dreamy child prodigy that has women of all ages swooning? Or is he a misogynistic nymphomaniac who has been corrupted by his money, power and fame? If Bieber is proven to not be the father, he will likely be completely vindicated by all parties, as he has no previous offenses. But if that paternity test comes back positive, Bieber will have to do some serious PR management, as a large legion of his fans will likely abandon him if he is unable to compensate for his transgressions. Luckily for Bieber, he recently just decided to have a portion of his album sales donated to charity. The timing may be perfect, as his good deeds may help mitigate the pending disaster that could be Bieber’s baby-mama drama and engender some good will from the public. Now it is up to Bieber’s camp to begin framing his good deeds appropriately and downplaying the controversy surrounding him.
Still, whether Universal donates part of their album sales to charity or Bieber is actually the father, it doesn’t matter to me. Justin Bieber isn’t worth the space on my hard drive.
**Due to technical difficulties we recently had to switch domains and transfer all of our website content. Please keep in mind that while we have been publishing articles for two years, the published dates shown may not reflect the initial publish date.
1.) Fekadu, Mesfin. “Some sales from Biebers new CD to go to charity” Wall Street Journal. 18 October 2011. Web. 26 October 2011
2.) Stern, Marlow. “The Case Against Justin Bieber” The Daily Beast 4 November 2011. Web 5 November 2011