Prince and the Paupers

Prince is one of the most exciting, controversial, sexy and savvy acts in the history of modern music so when he does something different he gains a lot of attention.

That’s why when Prince decided to give away the “Planet Earth” CD to his British audience in the pages of London’s “The Mail On Sunday” tabloid he also made headlines.

You can’t say Prince is not entrepreneurial. Putting aside his long, ugly feud with Warner Records where he became known as the artist formerly known as Prince (represented by only a symbol), Prince has tried a lot of things. Some worked. Some did not.

Prince has done concerts for relatively affordable prices. He has played Vegas in the club he took over and renamed “3121” – his obsessive and compulsive number fetish. This has worked.

He has also tried to sell music directly online and this has not worked that well.

That brings me back to what Prince is doing now.

Prince is not a record industry mogul.

Actually, record industry moguls are not record industry moguls any longer.

When Prince made his much-publicized deal to distribute the “Planet Earth” CD stuffed in the pages of a newspaper, it was free to readers but cost “The Mail” approximately what Prince would have made from CD sales according to published reports.

This is good for Prince but not so good for the 99% of recording artists who are not Prince.

Prince also irritated his record label that then refused to distribute the "Planet Earth" CD in Great Britain – silly and stupid in my view. See, even record industry moguls are not what they once were.

And, those geniuses in the recording industry are not counting Prince’s newspaper distribution as sales although money presumably changed hands.

Prince has not been immune to the woes of the Compact Disc. At almost 50, he defies age but cannot champion the CD no matter how hard he tries.

His previous album “3121” sold a half million copies. The prior one went platinum. In any case, Prince has always been able to muster sales, publicity and utilization of the Internet to sell out his concerts – as he will do once again this time around.

Enough about Prince.

What about the other 99% -- particularly the next Prince and the artists who embellish the existence of a musical genre.

This is the inconvenient truth – if I may borrow that term.

Prince is doing what’s good for Prince and I guess you can’t fault him for that. But his experimentation such as giving free CDs away in the pages of a newspaper won’t work for the new artists that are working their way up in an attempt to find their audience.

The CD is dying. It appears that no artist or label can save it.

File sharing is here. Downloading is the new standard delivery form for new music. Monetizing that model has been difficult for labels, artists and everyone involved. Even Apple only makes a small profit on its iTunes sales although I find it hard to fret for Apple which is making money hand over fist selling hardware.

In fact, Apple has been seen as the problem with the music business today even though iTunes sales are legal. But the labels complained about Napster back in the day when music was being shared illegally.

Prince isn’t just purple, his favorite color. He’s green – rich beyond most artists expectations

Aspiring young artists are poor as they always have been. They don't have those small entrepreneurs with big ears in Memphis, Nashville, Motown, Philly looking for the next major act.

Giving away CDs for free when the artist actually gets paid is nice for Prince but a bankrupt idea for the pop music industry which badly needs to build a robust and inclusive industry where Prince as well as the aspiring young paupers can also get a chance.

The Internet is a tool – not the enemy.

Live music performance is the future.

Internet radio is the new “radio” where listeners will be able to sample the goods before buying the products that may include CDs, but may not. May include t-shirts and merchandise, but may not. But will always include revenue from live performances.

The record mogul currently known as Prince can't save the CD by stuffing albums in newspapers that his fans probably don't read.

He's being hailed as a genius by some but nothing is smart about a record industry strategy that is available to name acts only that doesn't encourage all musicians to be heard.

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