Music Industry…using you?

Over the years, the music industry in the United States is an industry that always seems to be in the public’s eye. In both good and bad ways. In a recent report by The Atlantic
(, investigators found that a now ancient-app called Shazam (the older version of SoundHound) has been able to predict what songs were going to become hits just by viewing the data from the app. “We know where a song’s popularity starts, and we can watch it spread,” Titus told me. Take, for example, Lorde, the out-of-nowhere sensation of 2013. Shazam’s engineers can rewind time to trace the international contagion of her first single, “Royals,” watching the pings of Shazam searches spread from New Zealand, her home country, to Nashville (a major music hub, even for noncountry songs), to the American coasts, pinpointing the exact day it peaked in each of nearly 3,000 U.S. cities. (Shazam Effect, The Atlantic).”

We see this a lot today in advertising; think of how many times you’ve been shopping on amazon or watching youtube videos when you tab back to Facebook or another social media site and see an advertisement for something you just viewed or something related? However, Shazam and SoundHound are not the only forms of data searching that promoters and the music industry utilizes. “Shazam searches are just one of several new types of data guiding the pop-music business. Concert promoters study Spotify listens to route tours through towns with the most fans, and some artists look for patterns in Pandora streaming to figure out which songs to play at each stop on a tour (AltPress,”

This raises a lot of questions in our society. For example, is it ethical for companies of any sort to monitor what we look at or are interested without our knowledge in order to find the next big money maker for them? Is there a more ethical way to do this? Do you feel that the music industry is controlling what we listen to? Watch full PBS feature and let me know your thoughts.

Minaj Under Fire

Hip-Hop artist Nicki Minaj has come under fire recently for her lyrical video of her song “Only” featuring Lil Wayne, Drake and Chris Brown. The video, which has been posted at the bottom has created major backlash due to the amount of Nazi symbolism portrayed by cartoon characters resembling the group. In addition to giant red banners that hang from government style buildings, there is also red arm bands on each soldier in the video, rows upon rows of battle tanks, fighter jets and missiles and bombs hitting the ground.

Minaj responded to the backlash with, “The artist who made the lyric video for ‘Only’ was influenced by a cartoon on Cartoon Network called Metalocalypse & Sin City. Both the producer, & person in charge of over seeing the lyric video (one of my best friends & videographer: A. Loucas), happens to be Jewish. I didn’t come up with the concept, but I’m very sorry & take full responsibility if it has offended anyone. I’d never condone Nazism in my art (” This is interesting given the fact that the video is still on Minaj’s official Youtube account. In addition to all of the symbolism that resembles Nazi propaganda, in the song the background voice or sound bite sounds a lot like they’re saying “Heil.” Which was a common phrase in a Nazi salute. The full phrase was “Heil Hitler” Translated into english, “Hail Hitler.”

If you were a PR professional representing Minaj and the group of hip-hop artists. How would you handle this situation? Do you feel as though her response puts the blame on someone else? Do you think keeping the video on her official Youtube account is ethical?

Warning: This video contains extreme language and may be considered offensive.

Malaysia Airlines Twitter Mishap


This year, newspaper headlines and conversations were all about the Malaysia Airlines issues. It started with the disappearance of the MH370 over the Indian Ocean in March earlier this year which had 239 passengers and crew onboard still missing today. in more recent news, flight MH17 tragically crashed with a supposedly land-to-air missile in the Ukraine.

It’s extremely difficult for large companies to come back from one disaster, but two in one year might make it impossible. Their strategy was to carry on with business as usual, but many are unhappy. The airline company recently tweeted “Want to go somewhere, but don’t know where?” Many people were furious and responded to the tweet in anger.



Malaysian airlines responded to the negative feedback by stating in a press conference: “Unfortunately, it unintentionally caused offence to some, and we have since removed the tweet.” This response did not seem like they cared at all that they offended their key publics.

If that wasn’t enough, in September they launched a contest called “My Ultimate Bucket List,” which is a list people make of things they want to do before they die. As you can imagine, that didn’t kick-off as they imagined.

If you were the PR director for Malaysia Airlines, what would you have done to reposition the company and change its reputation? Would you have tried to go on with business as they did, or try something different?

How would you respond to these angry tweets and comments made against your company? Do you think Malaysia Airlines handled the situation appropriately after the first Twitter mistake?

Honest Delivery Service or Unethical Company?

The postal company Itella has been accused of coercing delivery service providers in Helsinki, Finland of signing unfair contracts.  These postal companies claim that they are being taken advantage of and that the wages they receive will not even cover their delivery costs.

Itella works with 150 delivery companies.  In the attatched article, it mentions how the Finnish Transport and Logistics Union SKAL claim “Itella has been pressuring its much smaller partners into signing illegal delivery contracts.”  In Finland postal companies like Itella are held to contractor’s law which requires the buyer of delivery services to provide expenses such as wages, vehicle maintenance and the employer’s costs.  This ensures that the delivery services turn a profit instead of losing money to employers such as Itella.

Unfortunately for Itella, this is not the first problem they are facing.  The company’s employees have gone on strike before and have given this company a bad reputation for its treatment of employees on all levels.  Itella also released a total of 239 employees due to budget cuts.  Itella is working hard to keeps its profit up but will all this be enough?  The company is losing clients each day due to the negative media surrounding the company.

Right now it is being questioned how legal and ethical Itella’s actions have been.  The debate may be heading to court as these smaller companies dig up evidence to support their arguments.  The legality of Itella’s actions are so disputed that officials are being brought in to solve the issue.

As a PR professional how would you handle Itella’s bad publicity?  Imagine for a moment that you were assigned this case and asked to help them promote their business as well as bring back customers.  Could you work for this company?  If so, what PR techniques would you use to help Itella?


Can You Give Cars Morals?

In the years to come companies may be releasing what they call “driverless cars”.  At first the idea of having your car drive you around seems mind-boggling and something only seen on the Sci-Fi channel, but can the car react in a split second to save your life?  Many researchers now question whether these new cars will be able to make such decisions.  Let’s say a semi-truck slowly drifts into your lane, does your car keep going straight into a head on collision or does the car swerve to the side and run right into a cyclist?  This ethical dilemma seems unsolvable and may potentially delay the release of these new cars.  Researchers say that it is inevitable that the car will have to run into the cyclist in order to save the passengers life; but is this right?  ABC News released an article claiming that more than 30,000 people are killed in traffic accidents each year in the United States.  Researchers hope that the driverless cars will be able to reduce that number, while other researchers claim that these new cars will only raise the casualty rate.  Law professor Brynt Walker Smith says that “No one has a good answer for how safe is safe enough, [the cars] are going to crash, and that is something that the companies need to accept and the public needs to accept”.  Even some governments may be stepping into the situation to regulate how these new cars are used.  Four states have already passes laws to regulate the driverless cars on public roads but other states seem to be in no rush to debate the subject.

The companies working on the project say that it is easy to write the code for these new cars but is impossible for the cars to make ethical decisions on their own.  Even humans struggle with this moral question; some would rather risk being killed in the collision than run into the cyclist and other drivers may take the chance and swerve into the cyclist hoping that they survive the crash.

Would you be able to represent these companies as their PR firm should they release the driverless cars?  Do you feel a product like this could be designed to act ethically in a live or die situation?  If so, how would you help them market this new product?

To Verve or Not to Verve?

How you like would to be a millionaire, own nice cars and fly across the country in a private jet?  What if I told you that you could have all those things and more just by selling a few energy drinks to your friends?  Well there is a company doing just that, or at least that’s what they say.  The company Vemma is selling their new product called Verve to college students.  This company recruits young college students to sell their new product to their friends persuading them with deals of money, cars, and success.   In fact, right down the road at Grove City College in Pennsylvania, Vemma tried selling their product to student Peyton Carlucci.  Carlucci says “They promised that you could make a lot of money relatively quickly” “They promised you that you could have a BMW or a Mercedes.  Basically, they just promised you the world and back.”  Vemma recruits for its company using videos that say if you sell its energy drink that you could be a millionaire.  Vemma claims that you could receive a total of $500, $5,000 or $50,000 a month.  Unfortunately, the company does not hold true to its word and is under investigation by the Federal Trade Commission.  The company has also received a total of 170 complaints of a pyramid scheme.

A producer for the Rossen Reports team went undercover to determine if the company was using illegal practices to sell their products.  A company salesperson met with the undercover producer to answer questions and to persuade the “student” to join the company and sell its products.  The salesperson went on to admit that the company was using something similar to the “pyramid scheme” after further questioning by the producer.  Once the unethical sales techniques were brought up with Vemma corporate the company suspended the salesperson.  Vemma went on to tell NBC News that his statements were “inaccurate and not representative of the company.”

If you were working for Vemma, how would you choose to sell its products?  Is the way Vemma sells its products ethical in your eyes?

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18-year-old Dies of Pledge-Related Injury at WVU Fraternity House

As of Nov. 13, West Virginia University in Morgantown, Wv. has suspended all 28 fraternities and sororitiesafter an 18-year-old freshman, Nolan Burch, was hospitalized on Wednesday night. Burch was hospitalized after a pledge-related injury that occurred at the Kappa Sigma fraternity house around 12 a.m. on Wednesday.
When police arrived on the scene at the Kappa Sigma fraternity house, Burch was lying on the floor, not breathing and with no pulse.
On the afternoon of Fri. Nov. 14, after spending 2 days in the intensive care unit at Ruby Memorial Hospital, Burch died.
According to university spokesman stated that Kappa Sigma’s charter had been withdrawn a week prior to the incident because of “previous unrelated violations”.
Furthermore, on Nov. 6, 19 Sigma Chi pledges were arrested for underage possession of alcohol along with riots on the streets. This fraternity was suspended at the time. Dean of Students, Corey Farris stated, “The action to halt fraternity and sorority activities while these matters are being reviewed is being done with the well-being and safety of our students in mind. That is – and must always be – our foremost priority.”
West Virginia University is dubbed amongst the top 3 party schools in the nation, according to Playboy. Farris and the inter-Fraternity and Panhellenic council were quick to suspend all Greek activities until further notice. Do you think WVU has a bad reputation for incidents like these? How could the school and the fraternity polish up their reputation in a positive way? Do you think it was necessary for WVU to suspend all Greek life for the safety and precaution of future party related injuries? Was it ethical for WVU to punish all sororities and fraternities that have done nothing wrong and who have been following charter and school policies? Do you think the brothers of Kappa Sigma have received fair punishment?


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