Prince and the PR Revolution

The Artist Formally asking for moneyI’ve got to hand it to the symbolic one, his latest promotional plan for his new album, Planet Earth, is a cracker. He’s spliced a deal with UK tabloid the Mail on Sunday to give it way free! It’s not been reported exactly the financial return for doing this, but it’s been generally accepted that his overall income per disc is actually more than if he sold it through the conventional mechanisms. But from Prince’s perspective CD sales aren’t a big part of his income, touring is where the big money is!
Unsurprisingly, there are those in the music industry that aren’t very happy about this, mostly the record companies and record stores.

Here are some ‘quality’ quotes:

“It devalues the music and the losers will be new artists who are trying to come through who won’t have any support from recording companies because established artists are chucking out their music for free.” – Kim Bayley, director general of the Entertainment Retailers Association.

“It would be an insult to all those record stores who have supported Prince throughout his career,” – Paul Quirk, ERA co-chairman

“It’s not only retailers that suffer; the public will suffer in the long term by restricting choice on the high street. Of course people will take a free CD by a platinum-selling artist like Prince but you only need to look at what’s happened to Fopp going into administration to get an idea of the potential long-term impact.” – Simon Fox, HMV chief executive

I’m not sure how to break it to the music industry, but what Prince is doing here isn’t about giving away free CD’s, or devaluing music. No. What’s he’s doing is pointing at you, the record industry, and highlighting out how irrelevant you’ve become to him and other artists. It’s people who go and watch him and pay for the music, and if he can have a different type of relationship with no middle-men, then his public get more of what they want, for less, and he gets to keep more of what they do pay!
The arrogance that somehow Prince owes these people something after the millions they’ve made from selling his product is breathtaking in the extreme! Perhaps if they spent more time thinking about how they can adapt their business model from the dying one they have to a sustainable one, then they might be around in a few years. But no, they whine about downloaders, and artists who have the gaul to think they actually own the music they create!
As for Prince, I don’t think whatever some industry brass says or does is exactly going to make much difference. Which might explain some of the sour grapes behind those comments. The music business needs to change, even if it doesn’t like that idea.


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