Prince & The Corperate World: The Emptying Of The Royal Purple Music Box

Prince artwork

Today I was going to bring you an article about Prince’s hip-hop oriented period-focusing on brief explanations of songs with video links attached. Unfortunately,many of them were not to be found. Since Andresmusictalk got started,I’ve only dropped hints about how deeply affected writing about Prince has been by the late musician’s contentious relationship with the worldwide web. In an effort not to focus too much on negativity,not to mention the mans tragic passing,I’ve avoided going into depth about it. But it seems the time has come to try and set the record straight about this matter.

Without doubt,this blog would not be possible if YouTube did not exist. It allows for the music discussed in it to come to life to the ears of readers. And many contemporary writers with a musical focus likely have similar views. Much as with David Bowie,Prince had a very early advocacy of the internet during it’s rudimentary,trial and error days of the mid to late 1990’s. He even developed separate websites for individual albums and songs,which wasn’t typical and still isn’t.  He even developed interactive CD-ROM content during that allowed interaction with his music in a very futurist manner.

In 1993,Prince also began a legal battle with his label Warner Bros. The purpose of this was not only to secure rights to his own music catalog. But also to release his swelling amount of recorded content as he saw fit. Warner’s had long worried Prince’s enormous wealth of recorded material would glut the market with one man’s music. This resulted in Prince changing his name to a symbol that couldn’t be pronounced in order to gain his creative autonomy. This helped secure him a position as a champion for artists rights. And doing the unconventional in order to allow this precedence to be set.

Then towards the end of the early aughts,something went terribly wrong. During a 2010 interview with the UK’s Daily Mirror,Prince declared that the internet was completely over. That computers and gadgets were no good. While (likely) shyness on his part often resulted in random hostility towards his admirers throughout his career,it came to a fevered pitch in the 2010’s. He sued fans for $22 million dollars for what he saw as bootlegging live shows he never officially released on physical media. He also began yanking any and all content related to him off YouTube and most major streaming sites.

Prince would’ve seemed to have become,according to music and law educated friends I’ve spoken to,what is officially referred to as a vexatious litigant. This means a party that sues not so much to resolve a legitimate legal matter,but rather to to subdue and/or harass subjective enemies. While the subject matter of Prince’s problems with the internet is explored in major online and offline articles,it’s seldom brought out that Prince sullied the legitimacy of his own agenda by acting in a hostile manner towards people helping to project his art onto a medium that was the future of music distribution.

Now the man is gone. And the reasons for his anger at his music being online is still mired in speculation. Was he being paid unfairly? Was seeing himself in the past reminding him of the physical pain he lived with in the present? Was he selfish? Out of touch with reality and the future of recorded music? Well during this time, his Paisley Park organization became increasingly cultish even from where it had been for some time. And still with fans trying to do tributes to his music by posting on YouTube,even an official Vevo channel for his music videos. This content is still often yanked down.

By alienating the internet, Prince missed out on one of the most tremendous opportunities of his professional career. Official Prince YouTube and other streaming channels could have focused on musician related content such as a Prince guitar camp,or tutorials on music production. He could have put exclusive musical content from his vault up as well. Now as physical media’s fate in the music world remains unclear,will Prince’s music meet the same fate? With record labels paying artists for content on YouTube via the channels known as Artist-Topic? Prince’s concerns over profit do seem to have been baseless.

The vast musical catalog of Prince’s recordings and concert footage has inspired at least two generations of music lovers. Not just to sing and dance but to pick up instruments, start bands and stand up for sexual and political liberation. Whatever Prince’s reason for cutting himself off from the internet,his artistic vision should not be allowed to die with him. I wanted to end this by encouraging you,the reader to create hashtags and Tweets focusing on finding an honorable way to get Prince’s music back online through YouTube,Spotify and iTunes again. Thank you!

 

 

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10 Comments

Filed under 1990s, 2000s, 2010's, activism, Blogging, internet, online streaming, Prince, Vevo, vexatious litigants, Warner Bros., YouTube

10 responses to “Prince & The Corperate World: The Emptying Of The Royal Purple Music Box

  1. Great well balanced overview of Prince’s uneven legal/internet legacy. And it’s a missed opportunity for him and his music, because Internet access is one of the primary ways younger people get into things. True, the understanding gained from YouTube can very often be shallow, but that is what every creator risks, the chance their work will not be recieved in the intended spirit. One can’t make creative work and then dictate all the meanings of it. It will be interesting to see how it works out.

    • Excellent extension Brother Rique! Your so right! Prince needed to have realize the potential triteness of YouTube content in terms of putting quality material of his own out there. Not just saying “these computers and gadgets are no good”. You and I might respond to that by saying “okay Prince,point taken. so make it better”. Thanks again for the insightful extension comment!

  2. J J

    Hi Andre

    As a huge music fan, & a longtime, massive Prince fan, I linked to this. Thank you for writing, & posting it!It’s a good summary of Prince’s concerns & actions, re: the Internet.

    Despite his (valid) wariness, & hostility, in the last couple of years, Prince used the Net to his benefit. His Twitter, Princestagram, & ‘official’ Facebook accounts were all effective promotional tools, as were various pages of each 3rdEyeGirl member, & Paisley Park.

    One of the *many* reasons I admired Prince was his uncanny ability to see how tools-musical instruments, an eyeliner pencil, various technology-could be most effectively used-& then used differently for different times/goals. I always thought he was underestimated, & undermined, partly because he was such a free thinker.

    I didn’t know him personally, yet am mourning him as if I did.

    Peace
    J

  3. J J

    Hello! I’m trying to figure out how to delete my comment; if you can do it before I sort it, please do so. My apologies; I seldom post on public pages, & didn’t realize my comment posted to the public site- of course it’s more apt in an email. I’m also sorry my point- readability, is construed as ‘policing. That said, ‘Corperate’ had me querying if it was a ‘fanboy’, or fanfic piece, so I read it! (And figured you’d catch Corperate soon enough!) Many of the articles that stay with me- & I read loads- are similar, in that I don’t agree with everything, but passion & intent are loud & clear. All best. 

    WordPress.com dunderbeck1980 commented: “Well I could do without the grammar policing. But thanks for the positive input. Please continue to comment. It’s very healthy and good to have it But I’d prefer if you kept grammar policing between us in private messages. Again,thanks for the general inp” | | Respond to this comment by replying above this line |

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    | | | dunderbeck1980 commented on Prince & The Corperate World: The Emptying Of The Royal Purple Music Box. in response to J J: Hi Andre As a huge music fan, & a longtime, massive Prince fan, I linked to this. Thank you for writing, & posting it! I’m sending the following not only as a writer/reader/editor, but also so that other readers won’t be distracted, & possibly stop reading partway. These were noticed upon my first, quick read; […] Well I could do without the grammar policing. But thanks for the positive input. Please continue to comment. It’s very healthy and good to have it But I’d prefer if you kept grammar policing between us in private messages. Again,thanks for the general input! | Reply |    Comments |

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  4. Jack

    Relevant song that hasn’t been taken down: Prince – My Computer https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wxJ2SCxMy1g

  5. YOU DON’T KNOW PRINCE. PRINCE STARTED SELLING MUSIC ON THE INTERNET, INVENTED IT, PRETTY MUCH. AND IT IS BECAUSE PRINCE PUT HIS MUSIC ON THE INTERNET, IS THE REASON, THAT IT IS ON THE INTERNET.

    WHAT PRINCE DOESN’T AGREE WITH, IS COMPANINES LIKE TIDAL, WHO CHARGE A MEMBERSHIP FEE, SELL EACH SONG SEPERATELY, AND IF BITCHES DON’T HAVE THE MONEY, IN THEIR BANKS, TO COVER THE PAYMENT, THEIR VERY OWN BANKS CHARGE THEM, AN EXTRA $35.00. PRINCE SAW THAT AS UNFAIR, AND PULLED SONGS FROM TIDAL. APPROXIMATELY A WEEK LATER, PRINCE WAS FOUND, IN HIS ELEVATOR.

    • Nichole I understand your anger. Prince’s death fills me with rage and pain as well. People are wondering what exactly happened. Many are convincing themselves he had to have been murdered. The reality is,no one knows for sure. All I was saying in the article was that Prince should have realized that what he didn’t see was his opportunity. Just like the late father of my friend Henrique Hopkins told him. He may have intended to utilize YouTube in a way that was musically and financially fair and balanced. But he didn’t. And those in charge of his legacy should find an honorable way to do that.

  6. It’s funny, I thought about writing something similar to this a few months back, but ultimately didn’t because–as you noted–I didn’t want to come across as too negative in the wake of his death (you didn’t, by the way). I do think that Prince’s estate needs to figure out his Internet presence if they want his legacy to go on; whether we like or agree with it or not, this is just the way music is consumed nowadays. I remember getting into it on this subject with some hardcore Prince fans on Facebook after he pulled his stuff off Spotify, who basically just said “buy the vinyl.” I do have a lot of Prince’s music on vinyl, but that’s not the point–I can’t take my turntable to work or in the car or on public transportation with me, which means that Prince is missing out on mindshare that other artists whose music is more accessible are receiving instead. And I’m a huge Prince fan–there are a lot of people who won’t even make the efforts I make to listen to his music, and that’s a shame.

    The easy, kneejerk response is to say “well screw ’em, if they’re not willing to bend over backwards to listen to a great artist like Prince then they don’t deserve to.” But that’s also incredibly short-sighted. “Greatness” isn’t self-evident in popular culture, and young people won’t jump through hoops to listen to something just because older people say it’s great. There’s a lot that needs to be figured out about streaming as a method of musical consumption–royalties being the big one, as well as the stupid exclusivity of different services–but culturally it’s just too important to ignore. And in a culture where everything is at everyone’s fingertips, the stuff that’s made difficult to access is ultimately going to be ignored.

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