Sunday, July 15, 2007

Princely Sums

News that Prince has “given away” his new album, Planet Earth, free with a UK National newspaper this morning has created quite a stir in both the press and the music industry.

Although I can applaud the apparent sense of largesse behind the move – “giving music back to the fans” – I nevertheless agree with those who think that the strategy is ill conceived and ill thought out.

I’m sure much of Prince’s real motivation is a huge desire to cheese-off all those music industry bigwigs and fat cats who have leeched off him and other artists over the years, hampered his creativity and degraded the art form by dunging it about with the cursed accoutrements of business and commerce. I can well sympathise.

Except that it’s not the fat cats who’ll suffer from the eventual disappearance of the high street music store that this move seems to herald. It’s the shop workers, the stock buyers and all those ordinary people who work in the industry who’ll suffer the most. And these people have usually got into this line of work precisely because they are music fans. The very fans in fact that Prince wishes to lavish his generosity upon.

It’s fine for Prince. He evidently doesn’t need the money. He’s also big-egoed enough to cold-shoulder the inevitable “his album was so bad he had to give it away” jibes that will inevitably follow his recent bout of munificence.

But speaking as someone who’s brother-in-law has recently lost their job – without any kind of payment or compensation whatsoever – due to the collapse of the Fopp record store chain I agree with those who think that Prince’s album give-away is just a mighty kick in the teeth for those who have contributed to Prince’s material success over the past 4 decades.

If Prince wanted to show off his benevolence then why not give all the proceeds of the album sales to charity? Doesn’t it make better sense to make money for a good cause than to make no money whatsoever?

Preventing some company bigwig from buying yet another timeshare in the Algarve is one thing. Taking food of the table of an ordinary bloke in the high street is something else entirely.

Planet Earth?

Sigh, you’re damn right it is.


TimeWarden said...

I worked in a CD store for a number of years so I know where you're coming from. It was an independent rather than a chain but the pressure was on, even back in the late '70s and '80s, to compete. I worked there because I wanted to know all that was going on in the industry at the time, certainly not for the wage which was well below the minimum!

I'm sure you agree, though, that Prince is a bit of a pillock! I remember him thanking God at a Brit awards, years ago when he was still popular, rather than his publicist! And I believe the paper in question paid him a cool quarter of a million, up front, for his latest contribution to musical poverty!!

Come to think of it, I've got one of Prince's albums from back in the days when I was working in the shop, a freebie picture disc of the "Batman" soundtrack, but I still haven't played it!!!


My girls are of the opinion that you would have to PAY THEM to add a Prince DVD to their collection!

Steve said...

I tend to agree with you Ally, though I was a big Prince fan in my teens.

I've read that most recording artists make very little money from album sales anyway - most of it goes to the record company. An artist makes his/her money from tours and merchandizing... so if Prince really wanted to "give music back to the fans" then he could easily do some free gigs and give some free T-shirts away.

Somehow I doubt very much that he will! He's not being that charitable in my opinion!

Rol said...

I thought I'd commented on this yesterday, but blogger must have eaten it.

By all accounts, Prince made more money on this than he would have done selling the record in shops (particularly as he hasn't had a hit album in 10 years or so) - the paper paid a whopping amount to give the record away, and other faded big name artists are queueing up to follow suit.

I'm more insulted by being made to buy a copy of the Reactionary Bigots On Sunday as the only way to get a hold of the record...

...and I'm also a little peeved at Prince's latest 10 Night UK Greatest Hits Tour... 10 nights at the same bloody venue! Because of course, London *is* the UK.

OK. Deep breath. Rant over. Thank you.

-eve- said...

Interesting. I had the same thought as Rol; that he was cutting his losses by giving it away. Seems that it WAS true! I don't see many CD stores of the kind that you write of (it's all chains over here), but you have a point...

Steve said...

I think you're right, Rol and Eve. Plus by being paid a cool wad of cash by the newspaper all the money presumably goes to Mr P. R. Nelson without a cent of it being ciphoned off to various record company execs... though I suspect Prance cut them out of the picture a long time ago. He can thank God all he wants but it's the greenbacks he's really worshipping in my book.

But then I am a down and out cynic.