Prince: Digital Music Has A Different Impact On Your Brain

from the prince's-brain,-perhaps dept

Prince is apparently continuing his war with the modern world. The rockstar who once seemed to be on the cusp of leading the music world into the digital era, seems to have gone so far to the other extreme that he’s become a joke. He went on the legal warpath against some internet sites, completely ignored his own website, which he charged people to access, and declared that the internet was over and he’d no longer allow his music online. Oh, and then there was his claim that if someone covers your song, the original no longer exists, despite the fact he’s done a bunch of covers.

He’s now done another interview, and despite his “people” telling the interviewer that he wasn’t allowed to ask about Prince’s views on the internet, Prince dove in anyway and explained why digital music impacts your brain in a different way:

His management’s pre-interview list of guidelines insisted, “Please do not discuss his views on the internet,” but perhaps Prince hasn’t read them. “I personally can’t stand digital music,” he says. “You’re getting sound in bits. It affects a different place in your brain. When you play it back, you can’t feel anything. We’re analogue people, not digital.” He’s warming to his theme. “Ringtones!” he exclaims. “Have you ever been in a room where there’s 17 ringtones going off at once?”

Does he have a ringtone?

“No,” he says, looking as offended as if I’d asked him if he drove a clown car. “I don’t have a phone.”

He also appears to have picked up some misguided notions from some in the recording industry that it’s really all the tech world’s fault that people aren’t buying music any more. Also, he claims that the White House has asked him to come talk about “piracy.” Though it’s not uncommon for the White House to hear from foreign dignitaries, this may mark the first time they have invited a representative from another planet.

“We made money [online] before piracy was real crazy. Nobody’s making money now except phone companies, Apple and Google. I’m supposed to go to the White House to talk about copyright protection. It’s like the gold rush out there. Or a carjacking. There’s no boundaries. I’ve been in meetings and they’ll tell you, Prince, you don’t understand, it’s dog-eat-dog out there. So I’ll just hold off on recording.”

That’s barely comprehensible in general (what does the second to last sentence have to do with anything?), and even if you accept the basic statements about “piracy,” the rest doesn’t make much sense. Prince has already figured out how to deal with that, doing his deals with newspapers to pre-sell his CDs, and recognizing that the real money is in live shows (for which the music acts as an excellent promotional tool). So why is he complaining?

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Comments on “Prince: Digital Music Has A Different Impact On Your Brain”

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63 Comments
PaulT (profile) says:

Re: Re:

I’d personally argue that while that difference does occur, it’s irrelevant for most people. Yes, someone with very good hearing using high end home equipment can instantly tell the difference, but the average person listening through earbuds on a train or through PC speakers? Not to mention that most people under 30 have grown up listening to music on cassette (low quality) or CDs (digitally sampled) before MP3s became ubiquitous anyway and so often don’t notice the difference, especially with music that’s digitally mastered to begin with.

Besides, even if he is correct, all he’s done is demonstrate that he’s aware of a market that’s currently under-provided for (FLAC/lossless digital purchases) and so threatening to stop recording is a little silly at best.

As for the rest of his rant, he’s acting pretty much like Kevin Smith’s hilarious depiction of him and showing how out of touch he is. He seems to have no concept of how his music is consumed, how people prefer to listen to it, how modern life really works (yes, Prince, everybody has a mobile so 17 different bell sounds would be just as distracting as 17 ringtones) – and this is the guy the White House is going to get to advise them? I smell trouble…

Oh, and hilariously I checked him on my Spotify account and his entire back catalogue up the Planet Earth seems to be accounted for. I’m not sure how much control he has over the major label era stuff, but this seems a little hypocritical at best.

Anonymous Coward says:

What is really funny is that in the desperate search for positive spin, that Techdirt would even run this sort of story. Prince’s career is like PHP3. It reached it’s EOL a long time ago. Yup, some people still use it, but they are fewer and fewer all the time.

A desperate man trying to be relevant again meets website looking for anyone to say the secret magic words. A marriage made in heaven.

Overcast (profile) says:

“Every single CD Prince has ever sold was digital as well. How does he fit that into his world view? Is he only going to offer his music on LPs from now on?”

Yes, but don’t let the artists and music company execs know this!!! lol

Industry has ‘pushed’ the catchy word ‘digital’ on the consumers for a long time. Now we are embracing it and they are crying like spoiled babies.

Anonymous Coward says:

You know he may be batshit crazy in any number of ways but as far as digital music being essentially different I think he’s right on. It’s true-our nervous sytems did evolve to input audio as continuous waveforms. Certainly our brains can assemble the bits that make up a digital music file and interpret them as sound, but it’s just not the same. What’s missing is what Neil Young calls “the therapeutic value of music.” This isn’t an audiophile issue either-more one of nutritional value.

PaulT (profile) says:

Re: Re:

“Certainly our brains can assemble the bits that make up a digital music file and interpret them as sound”

Wow, I’d advise you stop right there and try to read up on the subject before you start thinking anything that comes out of Prince’s mouth is sane…

Basically – no, for God’s sake no, it can’t. That’s what the MP3 player does (or the computer, the radio, the satellite decoder, the phone, whatever). Everything received by our ears and therefore our brains is analogue.

Now it’s true that the sampling and coding/decoding methods used by digital recording might remove some aspects of the sound that would be there in an analogue recording, making some listeners interpret the resulting sound as “cold”, “artificial” or whatever. But, that doesn’t mean your brain somehow interprets digital information – it’s analogue before it gets to your ears.

“What’s missing is what Neil Young calls “the therapeutic value of music.””

That’s your opinion, and hey guess what? All music is subjective. it’s got nothing to do with whether a digital file, a plastic disc or a radio broadcast was used to transmit it to your receiving device.

Vidiot (profile) says:

Re: Re:

In the late ’70’s, a fellow named John Diamond, who called himself an “Applied Kinesiologist”, got tired of his prior campaign against fluorescent lighting as stress-inducing (too much flickering!) and instead targeted the then-new field of digital audio. I watched him call volunteers up to the stage at an audio symposium, and using supposed muscle strength tests, prove that digital=bad. Chaos then broke out among the bewhiskered researchers and engineers. Looks like he’s largely discredited now:
http://www.3daudioinc.com/3db/showthread.php?3895-This-just-in.-Digital-Bad

Nicedoggy says:

Re: Re: Re:

Florescent lamps do have problems one is that the frequency that they go on and off can cause moving objects like fan blades to appear static if they are tuned to the right frequency, second that frequency can cause some mild adverse effects on some people and last but probably not least the intensity of light has now strong evidence to affect the eyes, in at least 2 studies I have seen people who have contact with the powerful illumination outside has better eyesight in general than people who are under artificial lighting which makes sense, we adapt to take in a certain amount of light and if we don’t get it the body adjust to the amount we are currently getting.

Also I saw a study showing that diabetes type II can be reversed(i.e. cured) under a regimen of 600 calories(i.e. A serving of salad) for 2 months, which probably is strong evidence that we can adapt ourselves to changes in life for better or for worst, which strengthen my believe in Darwin.

Anthony Novelli (profile) says:

Re: Re:

Other craziness aside, it is hard to argue that Prince doesn’t know music. His impact on the industry is huge and lasting, and he was at least a competent musician on several instruments and contributed much to the Minnie music scene. And how many of the similarly huge artists don’t have their own closet-fulls of crazy?

That said, I agree that there is a definite difference between analog and digital, even for most people. Decent turntables always provided far more fabulous sound, that was far more realistic and less punchy. Ironically, one could argue Prince added this very digital-like signature to George Clinton’s music and reinvigorated GC’s career. But back to the point, I’ve a friend with tinnitus and he cannot listen to any digitally sampled music whatsoever. There is yet to be a real scientific response on this board about what kinds of impact it puts on the brain to jump from one sample to the next.. our capacities are so far beyond what can be interpreted digitally it’s a joke, and merely an assumption that we suffer not from it, let alone benefit. I’m with Neil Young on this one.

We take technology like this as good and impartial without due respect to us as organism, like we take for granted just about every other “advance” in technology. It should not be considered crazy to question why the exponential increases in processing power and storage density have netted almost zero improvement in quality of life or anything else truly measurable, except of course, “convenience” in terms of short-term gratification. We are truly amusing ourselves to death.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:

“I’ve a friend with tinnitus and he cannot listen to any digitally sampled music whatsoever.”
No, you don’t.

“We take technology like this as good and impartial without due respect to us as organism, like we take for granted just about every other “advance” in technology. It should not be considered crazy to question why the exponential increases in processing power and storage density have netted almost zero improvement in quality of life or anything else truly measurable, except of course, “convenience” in terms of short-term gratification”

We work hard for those advances. The convenience that we have gained has enabled us more time to do whatever we want with, whether that is art, music, food, socialization, health, etc.

Nicedoggy says:

Re: Re: Re:

Quote:

It should not be considered crazy to question why the exponential increases in processing power and storage density have netted almost zero improvement in quality of life or anything else truly measurable, except of course, “convenience” in terms of short-term gratification. We are truly amusing ourselves to death.

Please don’t go to the hospital then, it is full of processing power and storage capacity to make possible things like realtime CT Scans for angioplasty, MRI’s, Sphygmomanometer’s, enhanced microscope video screens, drugs discovered by computer simulations and so forth, and that is just one area in the daily lifes of people everyone uses something that came out of that increase of processing power. Cars that can drive themselves or park themselves, communication, document archival and retrieval.

Not to say that are not real health concerns out there(i.e. the cellphone recently was considered to be a probable cause of cancer) but it is not because of processing power or storage capacity, that I’m sure of it.

PaulT (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:

“Decent turntables always provided far more fabulous sound, that was far more realistic and less punchy.”

Fantastic. Now, can you carry those turntables in your pockets and make phone calls on them like many people do with their audio devices nowadays?

“I’ve a friend with tinnitus and he cannot listen to any digitally sampled music whatsoever.”

I’m sure you could find someone with severe visual problems who can’t stand Blu Ray vs. projected film, or photography vs. oil painting. I fail to see what that has to do with anything…

“I’m with Neil Young on this one.”

Well done, you’ve stated your subjective opinion. Does that make my opinion that I don’t give a blind crap about the medium wrong?

“have netted almost zero improvement in quality of life or anything else truly measurable”

In your opinion. Sorry, but I like the fact that I can (within the artificial boundaries of the music industry) listen to the music I want, when I want. That this comes at the cost of audio frequencies I can’t perceive means nothing. Try to force me to buy an analogue product and I’ll choose to buy something else. I know vinyl, and the advantages are outweighed by the disadvantages. Maybe I killed too many frequencies in my ears going to gigs & clubs over the years, but I don’t notice the difference. Sorry if you don’t like the 21st century, but this is the future.

techflaws.org (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:

I’ve a friend with tinnitus and he cannot listen to any digitally sampled music whatsoever.

I have a friend with tinnitus too and he has no problem whatsoever listening to sampled music. Now what?

There is yet to be a real scientific response on this board about what kinds of impact it puts on the brain to jump from one sample to the next..

Actually, no. There is yet to be scientific proof for assertions of people like you and Prince who claim there is a difference. I’m not gonna hold my breath, though.

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