I bought a copy of the Daily Mirror today. I don’t normally read it (except when I’m in the Chinese takeaway waiting for my order), but I bought it today in order to get hold of the new album by Prince.
I do think that Prince is a bit of a plonker in many respects, not least his rather bizarre attitude to the Internet, but I also think that distributing his music this way is genuinely innovative and worth taking seriously. What it does, of course, is cut out the big record companies who whine incessantly about piracy while lining their own pockets at the expense of both artists and consumers. Prince is almost certainly earning more from this deal than he would by going through the usual channels, and we can buy the album for the cost of a daily newspaper. That’s good news for him, good news for us (and, I presume, good news for the Mirror, who stand to benefit from the publicity and extra sales). And what’s even better news is that it makes the antediluvian attitudes of the record labels look even more unsustainable.
I’m not convinced that releasing music via newspapers will ever be the most common form of distribution, and it’s clearly not going to work for everyone. But it will work for some, just as Radiohead’s equally innovative “pay what you think it’s worth” digital release of In Rainbows worked for them. There are artists out there who are prepared to think outside the box when it comes to making a living from their art without screwing over the consumer, and the more successful they are the more obvious it becomes that the record companies are getting it wrong. For a business sector which relies on creativity for its product, the music industry is more often notable for an extremely unimaginative and narrow-minded approach to marketing and financing. Experiments like this one by Prince are, therefore, to be applauded – even if, as I do, you think that the Mirror is a naff newspaper.