Bob Baker's Indie Music Promotion Blog

Music marketing ideas for DIY artists, managers, promoters and music biz pros

July 02, 2007

Prince Pisses Off UK Music Retailers

The news headlines border on ridiculous:

"Prince Album Freebie Draws Industry Ire"

"Music Industry Attacks Free Prince CD"
Here's what all the supposed fuss is about:
  • In August and September, Prince will perform 21 shows at the new, state-of-the-art 02 Arena in London. The first 15 shows sold out in hours, so six more were added. These will be his only European dates on this tour.

  • As with his previous album release, everyone who attends the concerts will get a copy of Prince's new CD, Planet Earth, as part of their admission price.

  • What's causing the uproar? Yesterday (Sunday, July 1) UK tabloid the Mail on Sunday gave away about 2 million copies of Planet Earth with every copy of the paper.
UK music retailers are upset, because His Purpleness has cut out the middle man and is giving away his new CD directly to fans, which leaves little incentive for people to go to stores to buy it.

Years ago, Prince got out of his contract with Warner Bros and has been operating as an indie. But he uses BMG, one of the major label corporations, to distribute his physical CDs worldwide. With the news of this massive giveaway, the UK arm of Sony BMG is refusing to distribute the CD to stores on that continent.

So, what's the real story here? Who are the losers and winners?

To imply that "the music industry" is enraged by this move is nonsense. Yes, retailers are pissed. They feel that Prince is snubbing the businesses that supported him for so many years. And the music industry establishment (especially at BMG) is upset because an artist with clout is challenging their outdated, decades-old business model.

But the real winners are fans. They are getting access to music easily and without having to jump through hoops.

Prince is a winner, as well. Fans may be getting the CD for free but, reportedly, the Mail on Sunday paid $1 million US for the right to give away the Planet Earth discs.

Plus, the publicity generated by this controversy is creating awareness and buzz about the new CD (which officially goes on sale July 24). Do you think that will lead to sales in countries where the album is not being given away?

The funny thing is, banning the record from UK retail stores makes it even more alluring in that country. If people didn't get the freebie CD and want one, they can still go online and buy one -- and they will.

Other winners: Independent artists the world over who are seeing a great example of alternate ways to reach a lot of fans while also getting paid.

Want more details? Read the Mail on Sunday CD giveaway promo page and Prince's own 3121 label site.


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posted by Bob Baker @ 11:42 AM   3 comments


At Jul 7, 2007, 6:37:00 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

This is cool for someone of Princes fame..I mean a Million Bucks equates a lot of sales on a major label...but for the smaller artist this would not work, as you have no past worth for a newspaper to pay that amount. I like better the idea of including the CD with the price of the ticket or a reduced rate if you have a ticket at he show. I get where you are going with this but comparing Prince to the average run of the mill indie band or artist is a long streach. I think we need to find some more instep lower level indie artists...although for the likes of other big artist that have recently or are thinking of going indie this would be a great startegy...a guarenteed Million out the gate.

At Jul 7, 2007, 7:10:00 PM, Blogger Bob Baker said...

Dear Anonymous,

I couple thoughts on this:

1) I didn't clarify it, but the idea here is that you take a grand, Prince-like concept and apply it on your level. You may not be able to get a million bucks from a major pub right now, but you might be able to snag $1,000 from an alternative weekly in your region.

2) While I know it's easy to write off the Prince free CD thing as being too big for a little indie act, don't fall victim to the "thinking small" trap. Sure, you should be aware of your current reality, but don't paint yourself into an "insignificant, local band" corner forever.


At Jul 13, 2007, 8:46:00 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

GREAT POINT BOB... $1,000 would cover $1,000 CDS in paper sleeves for inserts. If you used a smaller CD manufacturer, and gave them a free ad on the CD cover, it would cover a cardboard sleeve too!



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