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Music Retailers Flip Out That Prince Wants To Give Away His Music

from the it's-madness! dept

For years, some have been saying that the real problem holding back the music industry from embracing digital distribution hasn't been the record labels so much as the record stores. In fact, in the Rolling Stone article about the suicide of the recording industry, one of the key stumbling blocks was that the music retailers threatened the record labels if they embraced digital distribution such as Napster. So, it shouldn't come as much of a surprise that music retailers are spitting mad over Prince's plans to give away his latest album. Prince has actually been on the cutting edge of new music business and distribution models for many years, so this doesn't come as much of a surprise. What's interesting, is that he's actually linking two troubled industries: recording and newspapers in a way that helps both. His latest CD will be available for free with a newspaper in the UK -- and the newspaper is thrilled because it's going to seriously increase circulation for that week. This is a perfectly reasonable idea: it adds value to the newspaper and makes it a more worthwhile purchase, while at the same time getting Prince a lot of attention and many more people hearing his latest works (which opens up many more opportunities for him to make more money through concerts, back catalog, merchandise, appearances, sponsorships, etc.).

However, the music retailers are freaking out that someone else might distribute music instead of them. Apparently they haven't been paying much attention to all that online distribution of music that goes on these days and the fact that the business model of the traditional record shop is pretty much dead and buried. Instead, they blame Prince for actually getting more fans to hear his music. "It would be an insult to all those record stores who have supported Prince throughout his career," claimed one. Another said: "The Artist Formerly Known as Prince should know that with behaviour like this he will soon be the Artist Formerly Available in Record Stores." Of course, that's the funniest one, since it's pretty clear that Prince has already realized he's better off without the record stores. Then there's the head of HMV: "I think it would be absolutely nuts. I can't believe the music industry would do it to itself. I simply can't believe it would happen; it would be absolute madness." Basically, what you're reading here is an industry in complete and total denial over the fact that their service (delivering plastic discs to willing buyers) is a business model that's increasingly obsolete.

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  1. identicon
    benefacio, 2 Jul 2007 @ 5:14pm

    History Lesson

    Those who do not remember history are condemned to repeat it. -George Santayana

    Musicians started off being their own promoters and learned the many reasons why it is not the best approach. This led to the creation of music promoters, which led to record labels which led to the RIAA.

    The most important, and least answered question on this topic is; Anyways, why is the survival of the record store or terrestrial radio any concern of musicians or record labels? The simple answer is because it is another way to make money and get your music heard. The complicated answer has to do with the differences between centralized and distributed methods of getting goods into consumer's hands.

    I have been hearing about the demise of retail brick and mortar purchasing for a decade now and it has not come true. It will not come true until consumers change their buying methods. Considering the fact that consumers have been going to market for thousands of years I doubt such change will occur during your lifetime.

    As with any manufacturer of goods, musicians need to be concerned when methods of distribution start to fail, especially when they have proven to be successful. Remember, record stores and radio stations were never about selling pieces of plastic recording medium but about selling access of music to consumers. The only consumer desire that is changing is the medium, not the level of access.

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