The eagerly awaited new album by Prince is being launched as a free CD with a national Sunday newspaper in a move that has drawn widespread criticism from music retailers.
The Mail on Sunday revealed yesterday that the 10-track Planet Earth CD will be available with an "imminent" edition, making it the first place in the world to get the album. Planet Earth will go on sale on July 24.
"It's all about giving music for the masses and he believes in spreading the music he produces to as many people as possible," said Mail on Sunday managing director Stephen Miron. "This is the biggest innovation in newspaper promotions in recent times."
Techdirt has more:
For years, some have been saying that the real problem holding back the music industry from embracing digital distribution hasn't been the record labels so much as the record stores. In fact, in the Rolling Stone article about the suicide of the recording industry, one of the key stumbling blocks was that the music retailers threatened the record labels if they embraced digital distribution such as Napster. So, it shouldn't come as much of a surprise that music retailers are spitting mad over Prince's plans to give away his latest album. Prince has actually been on the cutting edge of new music business and distribution models for many years, so this doesn't come as much of a surprise. What's interesting, is that he's actually linking two troubled industries: recording and newspapers in a way that helps both. His latest CD will be available for free with a newspaper in the UK -- and the newspaper is thrilled because it's going to seriously increase circulation for that week. This is a perfectly reasonable idea: it adds value to the newspaper and makes it a more worthwhile purchase, while at the same time getting Prince a lot of attention and many more people hearing his latest works (which opens up many more opportunities for him to make more money through concerts, back catalog, merchandise, appearances, sponsorships, etc.).
However, the music retailers are freaking out that someone else might distribute music instead of them. Apparently they haven't been paying much attention to all that online distribution of music that goes on these days and the fact that the business model of the traditional record shop is pretty much dead and buried. Instead, they blame Prince for actually getting more fans to hear his music. "It would be an insult to all those record stores who have supported Prince throughout his career," claimed one. Another said: "The Artist Formerly Known as Prince should know that with behaviour like this he will soon be the Artist Formerly Available in Record Stores." Of course, that's the funniest one, since it's pretty clear that Prince has already realized he's better off without the record stores. Then there's the head of HMV: "I think it would be absolutely nuts. I can't believe the music industry would do it to itself. I simply can't believe it would happen; it would be absolute madness." Basically, what you're reading here is an industry in complete and total denial over the fact that their service (delivering plastic discs to willing buyers) is a business model that's increasingly obsolete.