Prince – For love or money?

Written by on July 16, 2018

For a while I have had an issue with the fact that as soon as an artist dies their back catalogue sales rocket. Presumably this is a vain effort for people to justify their self aggrandising quest for attention as they proclaim all over social media that they are ‘devastated by the loss of [whatever celebrity they have just heard of]’ surely the artists would have appreciated the album sales and the congratulations more when they were alive.

When Prince died I received messages from a number of friends asking how I was taking the news. This was a bizarre and frankly ridiculous thing to ask since I didn’t know the man personally, unfortunately, I was just (and still am) a fan of his music. Prince remains one of the greatest live performers I have ever seen and a guitar pick from one of his shows holds pride of place among my guitar gear.

One of the things that frustrated me when it came to Prince was how difficult it could sometimes be to get hold of some of his work, however that made it all the more gratifying when you found one of those more elusive releases. The Rainbow Children being an album I haven’t seen since (or before) I bought it as an example. This decision was made by Prince, as he felt that his music, and indeed that of all artists, had a value that should not be cheapened by the frequent mass dissemination that we see today. That part of the worth of the music was in the experience and the tangible appreciation of the product. As such he was loath to have his music released on services such as Spotify and took great pains to make sure that YouTube was also removing any of his content which was uploaded.

Of course this probably had a great deal to do with money too, with Prince wanting to avoid the deals that were, and still are, thrown at artists for the use of services such as Spotify. Prince wanted to maximise the money he received for his music, as well as maintaining control over all of his output and image. In many ways I think he was right in that listening to his albums was always something that required thought and attention, along with the physical need to ‘put on’ a Prince track. Since his death this diligent approach to the distribution of his music has disappeared with all manner of tracks being easily available on both Spotify and YouTube.

 However now that all of the legal wrangling has been completed and it has now been decided who the heirs to the late artist’s estate are we are ready for a deluge of Prince products to hit the market. As a result, much like the way his music has been effected, I can’t help but think that this will cheapen the legacy that remains.

Last month Sony announced that they had acquired the rights to Prince’s back catalogue, a move that would surely have the Purple One apoplectic given the great lengths, effort and time it took to free himself from the constraints and control of record companies and gain his ‘freedom’ as the ‘slave’ writing on his cheek would express.

In the latter half of the year we can ‘look forward to’ hearing new music, new clothing lines, Prince songs being used in films and even the horribly tacky thought of a Prince themed hotel.

Over recent years I have had a number of things ruined for me by wankers, beards, vinyl, the imagery of David Bowie, finally anything to do with Prince is about to have any sense of mystique and prestige raped out of it by people who care more about the money they can make from their relatives great and creative life rather than securing his legacy and following what would almost certainly be his wishes.

Prince will be missed and must surely be remembered for what he was rather than what he is to become in his own absence.


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