Prince angers retailers by giving album away free

URL: Reuters

Rock star Prince gave his latest album away free on Sunday with a British tabloid, to the fury of music retailers.

The Minneapolis maverick, renowned for his run-ins with the music establishment, will also give away copies of “Planet Earth” at a series of London concerts starting next month.

Paul Quirk, co-chairman of the Entertainment Retailers Association, said Prince’s decision to give away the album, which is not scheduled to go on sale until July 24, with copies of the Mail on Sunday “beggared belief.”

“The Artist Formerly Known as Prince should know that with behavior like this he will soon be the Artist Formerly Available in Record Stores,” said Quirk in reference to the 1990s when the star stopped using his name.

“It’s an insult to all those record stores who have supported Prince throughout his career,” he said.

The innovative funk artist, who has sold 80 million albums worldwide with ground-breaking works like “Purple Rain,” is unrepentant.

“It’s direct marketing and I don’t have to be in the speculation business of the record industry which is going through a lot of tumultuous times right now,” he said when asked why he was giving his music away.

A spokesman for the singer told The Mail on Sunday: “Prince’s only aim is to get music direct to those who want to hear it.”

“Prince feels that charts are just music industry constructions and have little or no relevance to fans or even artists today.”

In an interview with Reuters last month, Mail on Sunday managing director Stephen Miron said: “No one has ever done this before. We have given away CDs and DVDs but this is just setting a new level.”

British retailer HMV clearly felt it was case of “If you can’t beat them, join them” – it is offering The Mail on Sunday for sale at its stores.

The News of The World, one of the Mail on Sunday’s arch rivals in the competitive tabloid market, was not to be outdone.

In what it billed as a world exclusive, the newspaper offered to give away 1,000 copies of “Purple Rain” in a mobile phone text competition.

Hurray for prince!

Lol! Yay!
Sell those concert tickets princey!

i am sure i will buy it!

I might wipe my a@@ with it.

Well, the price is right …
And with what the recording industry has been releasing lately … shrugs … why not?

I just don’t care for the guy…

The Once and Future Prince - From the New York Times

I’VE got lots of money!” Prince exults in “The One U Wanna C,” a come-on from his new album, “Planet Earth” (Columbia). There’s no reason to disbelieve him. With a sponsorship deal here and an exclusive show there, worldwide television appearances and music given away, Prince has remade himself as a 21st-century pop star. As recording companies bemoan a crumbling market, Prince is demonstrating that charisma and the willingness to go out and perform are still bankable. He doesn’t have to go multiplatinum — he’s multiplatform.

Although Prince declined to be interviewed about “Planet Earth,” he has been highly visible lately. His career is heading into its third decade, and he could have long since become a nostalgia act. Instead he figured out early how to do what he wants in a 21st-century music business, and clearly what he wants is to make more music. Despite his flamboyant wardrobe and his fixation on the color purple, his career choices have been savvy ones, especially for someone so compulsively prolific.

Like most pop stars, he goes on major tours to coincide with album releases, which for Prince are frequent. But he also gets out and performs whenever he chooses. Last year he took over a club in Las Vegas and renamed it 3121, after his 2006 album “3121,” which briefly hit No. 1 and spawned multiple conflicting theories about the significance of the number. He started playing there twice a week for 900 people at $125 a ticket. In February he had an audience in the millions as the halftime entertainment for the Super Bowl. He has gone on to play well-publicized shows at the Roosevelt Hotel in Hollywood for a few hundred people paying $3,121 per couple, and another elite show last weekend in East Hampton for about $3,000 per person.

Meanwhile Verizon put Prince in commercials that use “Guitar,” another song from “Planet Earth,” as bait for its V Cast Song ID service, making the song a free download to certain cellphones. On July 7 Prince introduced a perfume, 3121, by performing at Macy’s in Minneapolis.

In Britain he infuriated retailers by agreeing to have a newspaper, The Mail on Sunday, include the complete “Planet Earth” CD in copies on July 15. (The album is due for American release this Tuesday.) Presumably The Mail paid him something in the range of what he could have earned, much more slowly, through album sales. British fans have remunerated him in other ways. On Aug. 1 he starts a string of no fewer than 21 sold-out arena concerts, 20,000 seats each, at the O2 (formerly the Millennium Dome) in London at the relatively low ticket price of £31.21, about $64. The O2 ticket price also includes a copy of the album; Prince did the same thing with his tour for “Musicology” in 2004. Those “Musicology” albums were counted toward the pop charts, which then changed their rules; the “Planet Earth” albums will not be. But fans will have the record.

Prince’s priorities are obvious. The main one is getting his music to an audience, whether it’s purchased or not. “Prince’s only aim is to get music direct to those that want to hear it,” his spokesman said when announcing that The Mail would include the CD. (After the newspaper giveaway was announced, Columbia Records’ corporate parent, Sony Music, chose not to release “Planet Earth” for retail sale in Britain.) Other musicians may think that their best chance at a livelihood is locking away their music — impossible as that is in the digital era — and demanding that fans buy everything they want to hear. But Prince is confident that his listeners will support him, if not through CD sales then at shows or through other deals.

This is how most pop stars operate now: as brand-name corporations taking in revenue streams from publishing, touring, merchandising, advertising, ringtones, fashion, satellite radio gigs or whatever else their advisers can come up with. Rare indeed are holdouts like Bruce Springsteen who simply perform and record. The usual rationale is that hearing a U2 song in an iPod commercial or seeing Shakira’s face on a cellphone billboard will get listeners interested in the albums that these artists release every few years after much painstaking effort.

But Prince is different. His way of working has nothing to do with scarcity. In the studio — he has his own recording complex, Paisley Park near Minneapolis — he is a torrent of new songs, while older, unreleased ones fill the archive he calls the Vault. Prince apparently has to hold himself back to release only one album a year. He’s equally indefatigable in concert. On the road he regularly follows full-tilt shows — singing, playing, dancing, sweating — with jam sessions that stretch into the night. It doesn’t hurt that at 49 he can still act like a sex symbol and that his stage shows are unpredictable.

Through it all he still aims for hit singles. Although he has delved into all sorts of music, his favorite form is clearly the four-minute pop tune full of hooks. But his career choices don’t revolve around squeezing the maximum return out of a few precious songs. They’re about letting the music flow.

Prince gravitated early to the Internet. Even in the days of dial-up he sought to make his music available online, first as a way of ordering albums and then through digital distribution. (He was also ahead of his time with another form of communication: text messaging abbreviations, having long ago traded “you” for “U.”) Where the Internet truism is that information wants to be free, Prince’s corollary is that music wants to be heard.

How much he makes from his various efforts is a closely guarded secret. But he’s not dependent on royalties trickling in from retail album sales after being filtered through major-label accounting procedures. Instead someone — a sponsor, a newspaper, a promoter — pays him upfront, making disc sales less important. Which is not to say that he’s doing badly on that front: “3121” sold about 520,000 copies, according to Nielsen SoundScan, and “Musicology,” with its concert giveaways, was certified multiplatinum.

Prince ended a two-decade contract with Warner Brothers Records in 1996 after a very public falling out with the label. During the mid-1990s he appeared with the word “Slave” painted on his face and said the label was holding back material he wanted to release. For a while he dropped the name Prince — which was under contract to Warner Brothers and Warner/Chappell Music — for an unpronounceable glyph; when the contracts ran out, he was Prince again. And since leaving Warner Brothers he has been independent. He owns his recordings himself, beginning with a three-CD set called “Emancipation” from 1996. He has released albums on his own NPG label and Web site or has licensed them, one by one, for distribution by major labels, presumably letting them compete for each title. Over the past decade he has had albums released through EMI, Arista, Universal and Sony.

The idea behind long-term recording contracts is that a label will invest in building a career. But Prince (in part because of Warner Brothers’ promotion) has been a full-fledged star since the ’80s. So now a label’s main job for him is to get the CDs into stores.

Prince also experimented with having fans subscribe directly to receive his music online, which turned out to be a better idea in theory than in execution. After five years he quietly shut down his NPG Music Club in 2006. Still, his Web site (which is now usually has a rare recording or two for streaming or downloading. Why not? There’s plenty more.

“Planet Earth” is a good but not great Prince album. Unlike “3121,” which built many of its tracks around zinging, programmed electronic sounds, “Planet Earth” sounds largely handmade, even retro. “In this digital age you could just page me,” Prince sings in “Somewhere Here on Earth,” a slow-motion falsetto ballad. “I know it’s the rage but it just don’t engage me like a face-to-face.”

Prince, as usual, is a one-man studio band — drums, keyboards, guitars, vocals — joined here and there by a horn section or a cooing female voice. This time he leans toward rock rather than funk. Serious songs begin and end the album. It starts with “Planet Earth,” an earnest environmental piano anthem with an orchestral buildup, and winds up with the devout “Lion of Judah” and with “Resolution,” an antiwar song. In between, Prince flirts a lot, playing hard-to-get as he rocks through “Guitar” (“I love you baby, but not like I love my guitar”) and promising sensual delights in the upbeat “One U Wanna C” and the slow-grinding “Mr. Goodnight.” There’s also a catchy, nutty song about a model, “Chelsea Rodgers,” who’s both hard-partying and erudite; Prince sings that she knows about how “Rome was chillin’ in Carthage in 33 B.C.E.”

Although Columbia probably thinks otherwise, how the album fares commercially is almost incidental. With or without the CD business, Prince gets to keep making music: in arenas, in clubs, in the studio. Fans buy concert tickets, companies rent his panache, pleasure is shared. It’s a party that can go on a long time.

:cool: :cool: