A tweet by Microsoft UK caused an uproar today by suggesting its followers remember the late singer Amy Winehouse by downloading her “Back to Black” album on the company’s Zune music service. The company was roundly criticized for trying to capitalize commercially on the singer’s death, and in a follow-up tweet Microsoft apologized to anyone who was offended.

It was reminiscent of the backlash earlier this year over Microsoft Bing offering to donate $1 to Japan relief for every retweet.

The criticism of the Amy Winehouse tweet may well be justified, but here’s my question: How is the Microsoft tweet different from the Apple promotion below? Actually, the main difference is that many users access Microsoft Zune via the Zune Pass subscription service, so they wouldn’t be paying incrementally more if they took Microsoft up on the offer to download the Amy Winehouse album.

Apple is selling Back to Black for $9.99. Where’s the backlash over what iTunes is doing?

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  • Jefferson

    Perhaps it’s because Microsoft is soliciting for the album purchase?  It also could be in the wording of the tweet.  It comes off as callous.

    I just read an article stating that Back to Black is #1 in iTunes, so it makes perfect sense that they would put the album front and center in iTunes due to demand.

    At any rate, it’s a fair question as to whether either company is crossing a line.

    • http://twitter.com/lukobe Benjamin Lukoff

      When I worked in Amazon’s music department, we’d put campaigns up on the music page when a major artist died, just as iTunes has done. In fact, I see there’s one in the upper-right-hand corner of http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/tg/browse/-/5174 right now, so that hasn’t changed in the last 3 1/2 years. I don’t see anything wrong with that.

      Somehow the tweet seems different. I wonder if it’s because a tweet is pushed out, whereas you’ll only see iTunes’ or Amazon’s advertisement if you go to their storefronts.
      Maybe it is just the wording. It’s entirely appropriate for those in the business of selling music to take note of a major artist’s death, but how much of one’s legacy can you fit into 140 characters? 

      • http://twitter.com/gtroberts GTRoberts

        The Zune tweet is exactly the same as visiting iTune’s or Amazon…
        *YOU* choose to follow Zune, hence you get the advertising
        *YOU* choose to visit iTune’s or Amazon, hence you get the advertising

        There is no difference… just the usual anti-Microsoft attitude’s that various people have.

        And for the record, “Back to Black” was not iTune’s number one until she died and until iTune’s listed front and center.

  • http://twitter.com/jdrch Judah Richardson

    Amazon’s running a similar promotion too. Heck, Amazon even removed their usual daily free track to promo Winehouse – if that isn’t profiteering I don’t know what is.

  • http://www.timsmithmma.com Tim Smith

    Nothing wrong with it. People always buy/download music from an artist when they die. It’s just because it’s Microsoft. People are too sensitive. Oh a junkie died! Let’s all cry and overreact to everything! This is a non-story. And if anyone was truly offended by that tweet they must have a rough life.

    • Victor

      That was pretty harsh spitting on someones grave. She is dead. Have some class.

  • Jonah

    Nobody who uses Zune is paying a cent to download this album.  Microsoft is not profiting on this.  People who use Zune over iTunes or Amazon for one reason; the subscription model.  Not to purchase individual songs.

  • Guest

    Companies exist to sell products. People become more interested in an artist when she/he dies. Companies therefore sell more of that artist.

    Want compassion? Go to church.

  • guest

    Companies trying to make money off news, both good and bad.

    What a novel idea. Not!!!

    Tmz and the rest of the reality world that has been created has no  conscience,

    The sign of the times.

  • Anonymous

    because apple fanboys are much worse than microsoft fanboys

  • Shomer

    I was annoyed when I went to Amazon for something else and found Amy’s album promoted to me. It just felt horribly cynical.

  • Anonymous

    I really don’t think they did anything wrong with this tweet. Especially if it doesn’t cost money to download, as Jonah mentioned. Of course, they could offer to donate part of the proceeds from the sales to addiction recovery organizations…that would be a really nice gesture. Although, if they did it now after all the complaints, it would just seem awkward and insincere. It does seem Microsoft can do no right in some people’s eyes.

  • Guest

    The only difference between what MSFT tweeted and what iTunes and others are doing is that MSFT is easy to hate whereas Apple can do no wrong.  It’s a shame more people can’t see beyond their own bias.

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