Prince Re-invents Music Business Again: Distributes New CD FREE with British Newspaper

Both the music industry and print journalism scrambling for new business models to be profitable again. Have Prince and UK’s The Mail found a new business model for both newspapers and musicians to work together? On Sunday, July 15th, Prince will deliver 3 million copies of his new album, Planet Earth, to readers of the British paper just for buying a copy of the paper.

Prince’s business saavy is really unparalleled in the music industry. In 1994, Prince broke away from Warner Brothers Records (now Warner Music Group), and two years later released Emancipation, a 3CD set that people in the industry said was too costly to be profitable and wouldn’t sell without major label backing. It reportedly sold 3million copies at $30 a pop. He sold it online, which was also unheard of at the time, bypassing record stores, who were by then also heavily controlled (if not owned outright) by major labels. For the next several years, he sold albums solely via his own distribution center, before returning to a major label (Arista) to release 2000’s Rave Un2 the Joy Fantastic.

He flipped the script a few years ago and beat Soundscan at its own game when he built in the cost of a CD in the concert tickets for his Musicology Tour, gave a CD to each concert-goer and they had to count each and every ticket sale as an album sale, sending it up the Billboard charts (They have since closed the loophole that allowed for that to happen.). The Musicology tour was the biggest tour of 2004, raking in $84million.
The record industry has been blaming illegal downlaods as the reason for its awful sales (last year’s biggest selling record was “High School Musical” soundtrack, bringing in only 3 million copies). The reality is that they push a lot of crap and sell it the same way they sell peanut butter, but then expect the record-buying public to then respect it as “art” and pay for a CD which is not a composition, but 4 possible singles, and 8-10 filler tracks, and every song with a guest star they’ve used a mathematical calculation to determine how many units they’ll push by virtue of those artists’ presence.

The newspaper industry has also suffered because of the lack of planning for a business model to make print journalism profitable. My professor, Jeff Jarvis writes at his blog quite often about media industrry and it’s sluggishness to adopt new platforms and business models.

Prince’s website writes about this innovative distribution plan:

Always a musical innovator and icon, Prince is once again leading the charge into a new music distribution landscape, redefining tradition and setting new precedents. As well as having taken the innovative step of giving copies of his new album “Planet Earth” away with concert tickets to his London O2 dates, Prince has new plans of putting music directly into the hands of fans. In association with the Mail on Sunday publication, Prince will deliver his new album “Planet Earth” to nearly 3 million readers in the UK on July 15th.

This plan has shocked the music industry and set local retailers into chaos causing major controversy about the new future of music retailing as presented by Prince. This news comes on the heels of announcing a final 6 shows of Prince’s record-setting 21 Nights in London which have been swept up by record demand.

A spokesman said, “Prince feels that charts are just music industry constructions and have little or no relevance to fans or even artists today. Prince’s only aim is to get music direct to those that want to hear it. Prince famously took a stand against Warner Records in the nineties when he went on strike and appeared with the word ‘slave’ drawn on his cheek. Subsequently, he regained control of the publishing rights to his work, and broke down the existing system through his innovation.”

Prince, ever a creative genius and forward thinker by nature, has set a new standard with his latest plans in the UK for Planet Earth. He continues to define on every level what it means to be an artist.

From all reports of Prince’s latest tour (and his recent live television appearances at the Alma Awards and the Super Bowl), the show is killer! He seems to be doing songs he hasn’t done in years, and some people are suspecting he may have ended his decade-long relationship with the Jehovah’s Witness religion.

6 thoughts on “Prince Re-invents Music Business Again: Distributes New CD FREE with British Newspaper

  1. Pingback: BuzzMachine » Blog Archive » Prince saves newspaper

  2. typo…

    “He flipped the script a few years ago and beat Soundscan at it’s own game …”

    wrong “it’s,” dude. should be “its”

  3. Hi Kenyon,

    Nicely written and research article. I am glad that Jeff linked to your timely article.

    Keep up the good work.


  4. Pingback: Readings: 2007-07-12 « Kempton’s blog

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