Today Prince’s new album, "Planet Earth", hits retail. Most Americans will never hear it.
How do I know this?
Because his previous album scanned 520,000 copies.
The way it used to work was radio led the charge. You tuned in your favorite station to discover what you needed to own. But this paradigm ruled when you had no other listening option, there were half the commercials and you actually cared about what the stations were playing. Back in the last century. Back when the good music got airplay. Prince’s album is going to get no significant airplay.
Well what about TV, which broke the purple one?
It’s common wisdom that MTV airs no music. Doesn’t matter if they actually do. No one’s paying attention.
No one’s paying attention to the usual outlets at all.
Where is Prince’s album being championed? THE PRESS!
Newspapers are dying, yet the record business believes people will buy discs if they read about them. If this was a good formula, "Rolling Stone" wouldn’t feature TV stars on the cover and its pages would be riddled with record advertisements.
No one hears the new music. And therefore, no one buys it. It’s just that simple. The question isn’t how you’re going to SELL the music so much as how you’re going to expose the music. Maybe you should do both at the same time.
If Prince’s record is as good as all the writers say it is, the lives of listeners will be enriched by hearing it. Shouldn’t they hear it?
How about a deal with iTunes. The new album is free! Yes, go to iTunes and download it.
Apple has to pay for the privilege. And, if the star is big enough, they will. Or maybe it’s an all-in-one package. Prince does iPod spots. And I’m not saying Prince should do iPod spots, it’s just that he’s doing Verizon ads, for a service most people can’t utilize and most people don’t want to.
And then there’s the cover mount model employed in Britain. Rather than a regional newspaper, how about a deal with "Time" or "Newsweek". They’re challenged by the Web. They need to expose people to their product, they’ll pay.
Oh, but what about the taint to Prince?
Not really. This is like Neil Young playing Staples Center. The name of the building doesn’t rub off on him, consumers don’t believe he has the right to change it for his appearance. And, in the U.K., with a different album or CD every week, there is no implied endorsement of the underlying newspaper.
Retailers are screaming. The same retailers single-handedly holding back movies on the Web. Well, in this case, one retailer, Wal-Mart. So, a whole industry beholden to bricks and mortar kills its long term prospects to placate one of today’s retailers.
Well, the movie business is just a couple of years and a couple of changes behind the music business. In the music business, physical retail is in steep decline. And the Net is how many acquire music.
But you wouldn’t know this experiencing the new Prince release. I guarantee you Procter & Gamble or some other Fortune 500 company would pay handsomely to give away UNPROTECTED MP3s of Prince’s album on their Website. It would be a great story, millions of visits would be logged, TENS OF MILLIONS, and everybody would end up happy.
Once again, I’m not saying a corporation should be involved. I’m against that. But if you’re not, why not embrace the opportunities?
Even Wilco, licensing their music for advertisements. Why aren’t their songs downloadable free at Volkswagen’s site?
What’s going to happen here? The CD is going to go extinct and Warner and Sony/BMG and the other two sisters are just going to close their doors? Stating that there’s just not enough money in per track digital sales?
That’s the movie. Albums sell ever less. And sales and profits go down. And executives turn their palms up. And say they’re hopeless. And want to talk about ringtones.
How about the underlying music?
Oh, I know, these are corporations, about making money. Which they’re not doing so well. But they used to be public trusts as well. Bringing the best tunes to the public.
Bringing the tunes to the public. Why not focus on that?
No one wants the new music of most heritage acts. Rather than release a CD to no sales, they should make sure the music is free to the end user, and that the story of this acquisition opportunity is a big one, to drive users to download.
And don’t talk to me about the value of music. The value of music that no one hears is zilch. So focus on people hearing it first, figure out how to get paid second. If you do the opposite, you’re just RUNNING TOWARDS EXTINCTION!