Jim Carroll

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Prince album giveaway a sign ‘o’ the times

Who said that print was dead? Prince’s decision to give away copies of his new album with a Sunday newspaper in the UK has unleashed a huge wave of music industry navel-gazing. Those who purchase this weekend’s Mail on Sunday …

Fri, Jul 13, 2007, 09:06

   

Who said that print was dead? Prince’s decision to give away copies of his new album with a Sunday newspaper in the UK has unleashed a huge wave of music industry navel-gazing.

Those who purchase this weekend’s Mail on Sunday (including the 113,000 people who buy the Irish Mail on Sunday) will receive a free copy of Prince’s new Planet Earth album.

Naturally, this will lead to a significant spike in sales for the newspaper, who are unlikely to disclose how much they have paid the pop star for this exclusive.

The giveaway also has consequences for music giant Sony-BMG, which had entered into a worldwide distribution deal with Prince. Now, following pressure from UK music retailers, Sony-BMG UK and Ireland have opted out of this deal.

However, one of the strongest retail critics of the move has performed a U-turn. HMV, whose chief executive, Simon Fox, originally tagged the move “absolute madness” and said it would “devalue music”, will now stock the Mail on Sunday in stores this weekend.

The chain have robustly defended their change of mind. “Given the blaze of publicity, why should we leave it to our biggest competitor, which is the supermarkets, to sell the album through newspaper stands in their stores?” a spokesperson said.

The Mail on Sunday’s move is particularly audacious given the music industry’s ongoing opposition to newspaper covermounts. They’ve enlisted a smart accomplice in Prince, an artist who has been very successful in exploiting non-traditional music industry business models, thanks to his large, loyal fan-base.

Besides the deal with the Mail on Sunday, Prince is giving a free copy of Planet Earth to those who purchased tickets to his shows at London’s 02 Arena. If all 21 shows sell out – and 16 already have – Prince will gross more than $26 million from that arena run to make up for any loss on the CDs.

Doubtless, other heritage acts are examining the Prince business model and weighing up their options. One poster on music industry website Record of the Day pointed out that the scenario would be ideal for a band such as Radiohead who currently don’t have a record contract. It’s highly unlikely that we’ll see the new album from the Oxford laughing boys stuck onto the Mail on Sunday, but the Guardian might suit.