The Prince of Target

Here we go again.

The record industry still has no answers about the digital future and is just as clueless as ever.

And you can't only blame the big four labels.

Look at some of the non-starter ideas that major artists are coming up with. One can only conclude that no one wants to give up selling plastic CDs even though consumers got over them years ago.

Take Prince.

His new three-CD "album" called LOtUSFLOW3R (WHAT! You expected better spelling on a Prince album?) is the latest example of how lost artists are without their record labels.

And we already know how lost the record labels are.

Look at Prince's blueprint for a rock star at age 50:

1. Prince is selling his album exclusively in Target. (Guess he never learned from Guns N' Roses in Best Buy, and Springsteen and the Eagles in Wal-Mart).

2. Target heavily promotes the Prince album -- whatever heavily promotes means today.

3. Target agrees not to return unsold copies.

4. Target forgets to mention that it uses the Prince CD (a lot cheaper than most 3-CD sets) as a loss leader.

5. Prince goes on Jay Leno and performs for three consecutive nights-- refusing to play anything that an audience may want to also hear from his "catalog". (Apparently Prince is unmoved by U2's five-day consecutive flop promoting their new album on Letterman -- 484,000 copies in the first week).

6. Prince rejects being interviewed by Leno so Leno is betting his talk show gets better ratings without the iconic Prince actually speaking. Leno is right.

7. Prince kicks off a new website Wednesday to rip off -- I mean, market the album to his fans who are really not interested in buying music -- just looking for a chance to get better seats to his popular concerts. His new site, will charge an annual fee of $77 for access. Sounds like the salvation of the record industry to me. Lots of luck.

8. Prince fails to acknowledge that he has been working feverishly to drive down the value of music by other ill-conceived promotion strategies. In 2004 he bundled "Musicology" with tickets to his 100 shows artificially boosting his album sales to over 2 million. Last year Prince's "Planet Earth" was stuffed into British newspapers (you know, newspapers -- the thing you wrap fish in) and pimped out 3 million copies thus pissing off Sony who canceled the albums release in the U.K. Is Prince selling CDs or driving down the value of recorded music?

9. And when all else failed, Prince showed up at the Super Bowl -- America's biggest live music venue that doesn't help artists sell CDs after all is said and done.

What's wrong with this strategy?

Haven't we already seen this before?

These iconic music acts die hard, don't they? You have to admire the record labels. They don't even try.

At least Prince is trying to save his career even if he isn't helping his fellow musicians much.

And speaking of the record labels, you may or may not have heard that the much-ballyhooed Spiral Frog was eaten alive by bad planning and finally just gave up and died. Guess the next generation was right when they first heard of Spiral Frog. Offer them free music in return for advertising and guess what -- they'll continue to choose free music obtained online.

They knew it was a stiff -- all the music industry had to do was ask.

The radio industry is killing itself with one unworkable strategy after the other in their all-out attempt to avoid cooperating with the inevitable -- which in the case of radio is -- the digital future.

The record industry -- including artists-turned-record exec like Prince -- hasn't had a major new idea since the CD was foisted upon a public that had no alternative but to go by new players and repurchase their favorite albums.

That's precisely the difference today.

Young consumers don't have to buy anything.

The labels and artists can't control security in the virtual record store called online filesharing. Back at Tower Records or Sam Goody in the day, you could get thrown against the wall or frisked if you tried to steal music. Today, inevitably, the music is out there and it is free whether that is right or wrong.

Basing a business on selling plastic or even cheap digital downloads will get you exactly what it has gotten you so far -- a fizzle.

I don't even like the 99 cent iTunes concept.

Don't get me wrong. I like it for Apple. It sucks for everyone else.

To think that the supposed record buying public will pay for music is insane considering that so few (by comparison) buy music at all.

Shoot me if you want.

But the message is -- get another business plan that doesn't involve selling the music or continue to go down with the declining record industry.

In the meantime, catch Prince on Jay Leno Wednesday and enjoy the record business like it was 1999.

(By the way, Clear Channel is getting ready to implement a secret plan for running the radio station of the future that has industry-wide implications. Even the stout of heart may have trouble with this. More coming soon).

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