August 31, 2007

Don't Go Rockin' My Boat...

What seemed like a PR coup has turned into a PR mess in a triangle of money-grubbing that stands to make Verizon and Universal (as. if. they. could. look. any. worse) look like goobers at the expense of Bob Marley's estate.

Verizon announced an exclusive deal with the Universal Music Group to sell ring tones from Bob Marley's catalog, but the Marley family says no way and is threatening to sue. The family is unhappy because the way the Verizon-Universal deal stands now, it is a music licensing deal BUT is not behaving like a licensing deal. Because Verizon is using Bob Marley's image in their marketing efforts, the family views this arrangement as an endorsement deal (under which the family would have a say in how Bob Marley's image and music are used).

The family's spokesperson Chris Blackwell had met with Verizon previously. Obviously something didn't go right from the Marely family perspective, because Verizon did an end around and struck a licensing deal with Universal and is also proposing to use Marley's picture in their ring tone marketing efforts. This (I'm sure among other things) is pissing the family off.

I cannot accept the way Universal is treating the estate,” Mr. Blackwell said. “We don’t want this deal done. We want to sustain Bob Marley’s reputation, and they’ve done this without any permission from us, and we feel they’re absolutely not entitled to do so.”

From a PR perspective, Verizon needs to get its shit together and do some damage control. Because the customers who download ringtones of songs by artists are generally FANS OF THE ARTIST, and if the estate of the artist is pissed, well then you can bet that the FANS OF THE ARTIST (formerly known as your customers) will be pissed too.

Back to the drawing board, Verizon.