A Detailed Look At How Prince Embraces New Music Distribution Strategies

from the keep-it-up dept

Last month, we wrote about how the musician Prince had been pissing off a bunch of music retailers in the UK by having a newspaper give away a free copy of his latest album with every issue. The New York Times has a great article looking at this, and giving a more detailed explanation of Prince's strategy for music distribution that supports a lot of what we talk about here. Basically, Prince produces a ton of new music and is constantly in the studio coming up with more music, but he then uses that music in a variety of ways to generate revenue from all different areas -- often recognizing that the music helps make a ton of other aspects of his business more valuable. He also seems to realize a key point in understanding the difference between music that hasn't yet been created (which is scarce) and music that has been created (which is abundant). As such, he has done a number of deals that getting someone to pay him upfront to create music (you can get people to pay for something that's scarce) but then giving that content away for free. In the latest case, the newspaper is paying for the album, because it's going to help get them a lot more attention for their newspaper. This is the same thing that's actually happening in China as well, where piracy is rampant, but there's plenty of new music -- because sponsors are willing to pay to have it created. Either way, Prince continues to provide evidence that nearly everything the recording industry insists must be true isn't actually true -- and he's doing quite well from the sound of things. The continued publicity is helping him sell out a ton of really expensive concert venues according to the article.

Filed Under: copyright, music, prince
Companies: riaa

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  1. identicon
    BrotherFire, 25 Jul 2007 @ 11:14am

    Prince and Copywrite....

    Prince is obviously onto something....I get all my music for free because I DJ. Digital technology has made everyone their own DJ. Music arrives primarily through the ears and provides only auditory and spiritual stimulation. Food is experienced through taste, smell and digestion, and actually provides physical nourishment. However, I can make one of Rachel Ray or Emeril's recipes from memory and I don't have to pay them anything, in fact, that's kind of the point of their performance. I'm glad that technology has removed the restrictions on distribution that prevented me from hearing music from people who recorded it without me being present. A true artist seeks the widest, largest audience possible with which to truly connect, not the most number of widgets distributed. Those widgets are pushed through a retail pipeline just because it exists; selling to consumers is not connecting to audiences. Lyrics are more definite and verifiable, and should be copyrighted like literature, but the same problem exists in book publishing. However, context matters, and stealing lyrics to re-contextualize is inevitable. A digital recording is sometimes just a recipe for the original live performance. Sometimes it's an imperfect encapsulation of that very integral live performance experience, as with Jam Band Bootlegs. At other times, a digital creation is wholly produced at a laptop or PC, and it would be difficult to tell the difference between
    a recording of someone who knows how to play an instrument and someone who used a computer to compose or create a piece with similar instruments. Efforts to prevent "consumers" from sharing music are futile. Thank Jah. If I write a book and sell it on my website for download, it would be pretty stupid to disallow a reader from printing it out and giving it to his wife to read on the bus. If you record music, you have control of the manner of release and, now, thanks to technology, distribution. But you should not have "copyright" over the discussion of the piece, the referencing of the piece, the hacking to pieces and re-appropriation of the piece, or the transfer of the piece to other formats, as long as someone else's labor is involved and it was already submitted to the collective consciousness. It's just not legitimate to assume that puppets like Jessica Simpson or Justin Timberlake are hurt when we download or "steal" records, when they've done exactly what the newspaper in this article did. They paid a real artist to create music for them. Only this newspaper didn't pretend they WERE artists. What you're paying for with major labels is the support of an outdated and practically irrelevant distribution and promotion network, including pay-for-play commercial radio and playlists shorter than a fifth-graders. Thanks to technology, a recording artist(DJ, Comedian(ienne), Musician, Poet) can now take control of their very own development, recording and distribution like Prince. And it doesn't matter if the suits want to call it legal or illegal, we're going to do it.

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