Guestbook › Prince
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October 5, 2007 at 2:36 pm #1138335dingramParticipant
I am most certainly not much of a Prince fan, but I can’t help but be insanely happy that someone with his degree of power has FINALLY done something like this.
Prince Points the Way to a Brighter Future for Music
Eliot van Buskirk Email 07.09.07 | 2:00 AM
In his autobiography, Miles Davis wrote that Prince was the only musician in the world capable of moving music forward. Davis was referring to musical prowess, but he may as well have been talking about Prince’s business acumen, as evidenced by his upcoming album giveaway — the latest in a long series of innovative maneuvers, including his escape from a Warner Music Group contract in 1994, early support for P2P trading and status as one of the first major artists to sell music from his website.
Davis’ last, best hope for the future of music most recently outraged the music establishment by saying he’ll give away CDs of his Planet Earth album to British fans who purchase next week’s Mail on Sunday newspaper. In light of the giveaway, Sony/BMG refused to distribute the album in Great Britain, provoking outbursts from music retailers who had been cut out of the action.
Paul Quirk, co-chairman of Britain’s Entertainment Retailers Association, threatened: “The Artist Formerly Known as Prince should know that with behavior like this he will soon be the Artist Formerly Available in Record Stores.”
Part of the problem, according to retailers, is that Prince’s move helped solidify a growing perception on the part of consumers that music is free.
Jack Horner, creative and joint managing director for Frukt, a music-marketing agency, said that while “people like (Prince) play a key part in helping figure out what the models may be in the music business of tomorrow, by giving away a whole album on the front of a newspaper, there is a very clear devaluing of music, which is not a positive message to send out right now.”
Neither the Mail on Sunday or Prince’s camp would divulge how much the newspaper paid Prince for the right to give his album away, but it’s clear Prince was paid upfront, and that nearly 3 million Mail on Sunday readers — plus everyone who bought tickets to one of his shows — will receive the CD for free. The giveaway almost certainly contributed to Prince selling out 15 of his 21 shows at London’s O2 Arena within the first hour of ticket sales. The venue (formerly the Millennium Dome) holds around 20,000 people. If the remaining six shows sell out, the series will gross over $26 million.
Combined with the undisclosed fee paid by the Mail on Sunday, it’s not a bad take for someone who’s involved in a “very clear devaluing of music.”
Prince’s latest gambit also succeeded by acknowledging that copies, not songs, are just about worthless in the digital age. The longer an album is on sale, the more likely it is that people can find somewhere to make a copy from a friend’s CD or a stranger’s shared-files folder. When copies approach worthlessness, only the original has value, and that’s what Prince sold to the Mail on Sunday: the right to be Patient Zero in the copying game.
As with blogging and so many other things digital, music distribution could become a competition to see who posts things first. In a sense, music distribution would no longer be about space — it would be about time.
More bands and labels are likely to explore the idea of squeezing extra value out of their music by selling off the right to be first, as traditional sources of revenue continue to dry up. Universal’s recent insistence on an “at will” contract with Apple music store, for instance, is thought to be part of a plan for the world’s largest record label to start selling the exclusive rights to debut certain albums. And nowhere is it written in stone that music stores are the only candidates for buying those rights.
Artists have licensed music to advertisers for decades, of course, but this goes a step further: allowing the licensee to function as the music
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