In the continuing war against digital pirates, the National Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences (NARAS) will introduce an educational campaign against illegal downloading during the 48th annual Grammy Awards, Feb. 8.
Titled What’s the Download, the campaign is designed to teach consumers to make informed ethical and legal decisions about downloading.
NARAS president Neil Portnow tells Billboard.biz the new initiative will bow during the CBS telecast. Additionally, a public service announcement will air during the ceremony. The PSA will guide viewers to whatsthedownload.com, which provides overviews of the download issues and comments from all those involved in the music-making process.
Portnow says NARAS spent more than a year developing the campaign. NARAS and the research division of the Edelman marketing firm gathered proprietary information to determine the path of its plan.
“I felt that if we were going to speak on this important issue, we should not be shooting from the hip,” Portnow says.
Portnow says he believes the route the Recording Industry Assn. of America has taken in suing individual downloaders is “appropriate,” but for NARAS a carrot rather than a stick approach was the better option.
And he believes the timing is perfect. “Now there is concern and fear about what it means to download illegally,” he says. “People now have the motivation to learn more about the subject.
“Where we think we fit into this picture is the educational component of changing behavior and creating an informed group of consumers as to what the options are.”
Portnow also feels that other campaigns featuring superstars addressing the downloading issue-including Billboard’s “I Download-Legally” campaign-are having an impact, though he feels there is always room for another voice.
“At the beginning of our focus groups, we’d ask how do the producer, songwriter and engineer get paid [in illegal downloading], and there would be silence because it’s something they’ve never considered. We want to create a scenario where it’s someone you’ve never heard of at risk. It’s a grassroots campaign.”
The television PSA has been submitted to 350 local stations, and radio and print spots driving people back to the Web site are also being prepared.
Additionally, a number of entertainment entities, ranging from “Entertainment Tonight” and “Access Hollywood” to MTV and VH1, have agreed to carry a link to whatsthedownload.com on their Web sites.
NARAS has invested a “significant” amount in the campaign, Portnow says, although he would not give a price tag.
The campaign’s educational tone is being applauded by managers.
“Persuasion always beats coercion,” says Martin Kirkup, manager of k.d. lang and the B-52’s.
Jon Leshay, manager of Switchfoot and Mandy Moore, also likes the idea of education rather than punishment. “My take is that there’s a way to educate people in a positive sense.”