Can Dead Musicians Help End Piracy?

The music industry has made many attempts to stop piracy through advertising campaigns over the last twenty years. Tech Dirt actually posted a great roundup earlier this year highlighting some of Universal’s best and worst ads, including one that tried to connect illegal downloading with stealing a limb from one of your favorite musicians. Needless to say, the response were not what the company was hoping for.


The latest campaign comes courtesy of the Leo Burnett agency, allegedly working on behalf of Virgin Radio. As first reported by TorrentFreak, these ads use the tragic life stories of Marvin Gaye, Elvis Presley, and Amy Winehouse to explain why people need to think twice before downloading or sharing pirated music. The idea seems to be make people feel as if their download could have contributed to the death of these celebrities, which is a pretty deplorable idea if you ask us. See for yourself:


“The goal was to create a connection to each musician and the blood, sweat and tears that created the now-legendary music,” said Leo Burnett in a statement.

While readers will certainly form their own opinions on the campaign, Leo Burnett have already given it their gold seal of approval.

Using a 10-point assessment mechanism known as the “HumanKind Scale”, the company’s Global Product Committee has rated ‘If you knew what went into it, you wouldn’t steal it’ a 7.3.

“Work that receives a 7-point rating is considered to be the benchmark for excellence in craft,” the company says.

I have been looking at these images for a while now and I just don’t get it. I don’t understand the motivation behind it, I don’t know who on Earth would take time to read every word, and I don’t know who, if anyone, they could win over through this campaign. It’s well designed enough, I guess, but that is purely cosmetic and has no real value in terms of convincing people to stop pirating music.

Do these campaigns work on you? Comment below and let us know.

James Shotwell

James Shotwell is the Director of Customer Engagement at Haulix and host of the company's podcast, Inside Music. He is also a public speaker known for promoting careers in the entertainment industry, as well as an entertainment journalist with over a decade of experience. His bylines include Rolling Stone, Alternative Press, Substream Magazine, Nu Sound, and Under The Gun Review, among other popular outlets.