Once and Future Prince

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Planet Earth
Planet Earth (Prince)

Whether or not you like Prince's music (I do, most of the time, but not always), his career arc is worth respect. Not enough musicians have the intestinal fortitude to follow their own muse through thick and thin. The ones that do so - Bob Dylan, Neil Young, Miles Davis, et al - are worth paying attention to.

Music: The Once and Future Prince:
The architect of “Purple Rain” knows that in this century, it’s not about CD sales, it’s about music.
I’VE got lots of money!“ Prince exults in ”The One U Wanna C,“ a come-on from his new album, ”Planet Earth“ (Columbia). There’s no reason to disbelieve him. With a sponsorship deal here and an exclusive show there, worldwide television appearances and music given away, Prince has remade himself as a 21st-century pop star. As recording companies bemoan a crumbling market, Prince is demonstrating that charisma and the willingness to go out and perform are still bankable. He doesn’t have to go multiplatinum — he’s multiplatform.

No Need to be Nervous

In Britain he infuriated retailers by agreeing to have a newspaper, The Mail on Sunday, include the complete ”Planet Earth“ CD in copies on July 15. (The album is due for American release this Tuesday.) Presumably The Mail paid him something in the range of what he could have earned, much more slowly, through album sales. British fans have remunerated him in other ways. On Aug. 1 he starts a string of no fewer than 21 sold-out arena concerts, 20,000 seats each, at the O2 (formerly the Millennium Dome) in London at the relatively low ticket price of £31.21, about $64. The O2 ticket price also includes a copy of the album; Prince did the same thing with his tour for ”Musicology“ in 2004. Those ”Musicology“ albums were counted toward the pop charts, which then changed their rules; the ”Planet Earth“ albums will not be. But fans will have the record.

Prince’s priorities are obvious. The main one is getting his music to an audience, whether it’s purchased or not.
Other musicians may think that their best chance at a livelihood is locking away their music — impossible as that is in the digital era — and demanding that fans buy everything they want to hear. But Prince is confident that his listeners will support him, if not through CD sales then at shows or through other deals.
But Prince is different. His way of working has nothing to do with scarcity. In the studio — he has his own recording complex, Paisley Park near Minneapolis — he is a torrent of new songs, while older, unreleased ones fill the archive he calls the Vault. Prince apparently has to hold himself back to release only one album a year. He’s equally indefatigable in concert. On the road he regularly follows full-tilt shows — singing, playing, dancing, sweating — with jam sessions that stretch into the night. It doesn’t hurt that at 49 he can still act like a sex symbol and that his stage shows are unpredictable.

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Gears and Beers

1 Comment

I like "When Doves Cry". I do recognize his musicaltalent and ability to market himself. I have a friend who went to a concert of his in Miami.The CD was included in the ticket price. That was smart. I got to give credit to an artist who reinvents himself.

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This page contains a single entry by Seth A. published on July 22, 2007 2:22 AM.

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