Monday, July 16, 2007
I mentioned yesterday that I spent a good part of this past weekend discussing the current state of the music and recording industry with a friend who's been responsible for signing and producing many of the last decade's most prominent French recording artists. When talking about the changes taking place, he referred to Prince as someone who "got it" very early on.
While many people had written him off because his album sales had suffered badly over the past decade, my friend explained that in fact Prince was busy figuring out exactly how to adapt to the new ways music would be diffused and consumed. As an example, he mentioned that in advance of a two-month stint of London performances, Prince would be including free copies of his new CD, Planet Earth, in the British tabloid, The Mail On Sunday. Here's how Prince responded to the outcry from music retailers:
"It's direct marketing and I don't have to be in the speculation business of the record industry which is going through a lot of tumultuous times right now," he said when asked why he was giving his music away.
A spokesman for the singer told The Mail on Sunday: "Prince's only aim is to get music direct to those who want to hear it."
That's only half true, though. Yes, actual mechanical copies of recorded music will soon serve only as promotional devices. But the publicity they generate will be used to generate income through publishing rights and licensing fees. Companies willing to pay to use a song to create a brand or product identity will eventually subsidize the bulk of the cost of recording and diffusing recorded music.
In other words, selling out will simply become selling. And we will pay for recorded music through the products it inspires us to buy.