Prince is a multi-platform juggernaut

Speaking of the difficult transition between media eras, Prince offers a fascinating example of how to do it quite successfully.

While the recording industry and some of its artists whine about declining sales, copyright issues, and the like, his Purpleness remains a font of creativity who embraces the challenges in format of the contemporary age. Jon Pareles had a great story about this in the Sunday Times.

Among other novel approaches, Prince had a copy of his latest album included in copies of the Mail, a British newspaper.

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.

This is how most pop stars operate now: as brand-name corporations taking in revenue streams from publishing, touring, merchandising, advertising, ringtones, fashion, satellite radio gigs or whatever else their advisers can come up with. Rare indeed are holdouts like Bruce Springsteen who simply perform and record. The usual rationale is that hearing a U2 song in an iPod commercial or seeing Shakira’s face on a cellphone billboard will get listeners interested in the albums that these artists release every few years after much painstaking effort.

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.

Not bad!

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