Prince: Kill Your Marketing in 1 Easy Step


Prince marketing

Can Prince ever find the charts again as he rebukes all of the normal means to get him there?

Let’s face it. Prince isn’t winning any new fans. Very frankly, his actions scream that maybe he just doesn’t want to. And that’s obviously a silly statement because who wouldn’t want new fans?

What benefit would a musician gain by taking steps to send a fan letters threatening legal action against them for using your image without permission? By sending a “team of black lady lawyers” out into the world to find these “criminals” and send out cease and desist letters? From a marketing perspective, it seems totally ludicrous. Yet this is exactly the types of actions that Prince has taken against his fans in multiple instances.

What’s even more bizarre is how Prince was at one point a pioneer of internet technology. He was one of the first musicians to have his own video game, he launched a website for his fans allowing them unfettered access to some of his more private song collections and gave them purchasing opportunities for both new music and exclusive concert access in the form of pre-shows and meet-and-greets. Then out of nowhere, the plug was pulled.

Some speculate that it happened as a result of an accumulation of bad reviews on the site internally by fans, online fussing among the members, and the distribution of the “members only” material out into the general public. But when those killjoy actions began being implemented to the general public at large, things just went weird.

Prince and DiddyMany people wonder what his motive is and some have come to the conclusion that it’s simply a result of Prince doing everything in his power to make sure that he is in complete control of what’s being said about him and how he’s viewed.  Others contend that he is taking these precautions because he wants to make sure that every instance of his likeness via photo or video attains the proper monetary gain and if a photographer or videographer is not getting compensated for image use in a variety of places, he wants to put a lid on it.  Some say it’s both. Some say he’s just a _______________. Fill in the blank.

While no one will truly understand his motivation, it is very frustrating as a Prince fan to watch him strike out at the very means of marketing that only want to help offer him more publicity for his music. How can someone whole-heartedly complain that radio isn’t playing their music  and at the same time doing everything in their means to keep the buzz from growing? And what can Prince fans do about it, if anything at all?

The radio landscape has totally changed. They respond to what their fans are talking about because ultimately they make money when people listen. But if you’re not allowing those people to help spread the word about your music or efforts, you’re squashing that buzz. Macklemore and Ryan Lewis are a prime example of an act that allowed people to run wild with their single Thrift Shop. They allowed file sharing and embraced any type of coverage they could attain. The end result was mass radio play, a record deal and a firestorm of publicity that made them household names in less than a year.

Prince has always been his own brand of marketing and part of his appeal was remaining an enigmatic character of sorts.  He doesn’t want there to be any possibility of a rogue clip of him not “at his best” to appear on the web. Essentially, total control marketing.

What Prince fails to see is the true virality of the internet and how bands that embrace it with all of its ugly dark alleys like torrent websites, bootlegging, and even – gasp – piracy, end up achieving unprecedented levels of album and concert ticket sales. The list of embracers such as John Mayer, Grateful Dead, Dave Matthews Band, Parliament, Funkadelic and many more all embraced the internet in all of its ugliness and reaped major rewards.

And on the flip side, those that have fought it such as Prince, Metallica and others, have had a very difficult time getting any traction in the public arena because they’re ultimately destroying their viral marketing. It just seems surprising that they are under a delusion that they’re actually stopping it. Or maybe they aren’t delusional at all.  This is not about people getting something for free. It’s the only way they know how to spread the word as lopsided as that may seem.

Luckily times are changing as Prince has begun to loosen up his reigns by allowing sites like Dr. Funkenberry to give folks early peeks at his material, advanced announcements of upcoming performances, and he has even brought another website online in the form of 3rd Eye Girl. But 3rd Eye Girl is a very far cry from what the famed NPG Music Club used to be and its “Buy Before You Listen” approach isn’t being embraced very well by some fans.  But at least it’s something. At least Prince may have come to the realization that the internet is not dead and won’t be for a very long time. If ever.

Maybe this is a sign of good things to come, but it won’t lessen the sting that most Prince fans have to endure as they can’t get their favorite Purple Artist on the airwaves because it just seems like he’s fighting it every inch of the way. It’s a shame to watch the brilliance of an artist tucked away in obscurity by choice where it seems that his only current desire is to entertain his current and loyal fans who are already fully aware of the avenues of where to locate new information and music.

For the rest of the world, they have no idea where he went to or if he’s even released any new music since Sign O The Times. They just see him pop up at venues like Coachella where he proudly showcases music that they already know. Fair weather fans who may own a cassette of Purple Rain tucked in a box in the garage somewhere or had to be acclimated by their hip parents and are simply there for that other new act that was playing at the festival but that wouldn’t have bought a ticket to his show otherwise.

The question remains if Prince truly understands the damage he’s doing to his own marketing or if this will just be written off by his diehard fans as just another facet of his genius that we will never grasp. Either way, we can only hope that he will open the doors to more avenues of outreach and pull back to allow more people to share his genius in the natural viral way that marketing happens in this digital age.

Many of us were alive to see his peak and it sure would be incredible to be able to validate what we know to this generation.

11 thoughts on “Prince: Kill Your Marketing in 1 Easy Step

  1. I have been a fan of Prince since high school…in fact if you ask my friends, they would say he was the one true inspiration of why I started being a musician and singer. I used to stand in the mirror in my underwear and a tennis racket singing every song from “Purple Rain”, specifically “Computer Blue”, “I Would Die For You”, etc. I worshipped him. As his music developed in the late 80’s I became ensconced in his musical genius. It was the soul/funk masterclass that I needed to begin my songwriting and production lessons. Now in the 2000’s, I have seen this dude do a complete 180 degree turn on his fans and the industry who have embrace him for almost 30 decades…I have only one thing to say to you Prince: YOU ARE AN ASSHOLE.

    1. That’s a tad harsh. There’s a reason why he’s making the decisions that he is. We just have no idea what they are and they are not conducive to being successful in the current music climate. You have to let the viral marketing do what it does to get traction and he’s fighting the natural flow.

      He’s too wrapped up in, “If they share that song, I’m not going to get paid for it.”, but the truth is that it actually creates sales by enticing people to listen to it that might not otherwise, has people buy concert tickets, has them buying the album to hear more, has them sharing with more people and increasing the reach, etc.

      By keeping people from sharing and helping spread the word, it has the opposite effect. You stifle progress. He has his mind set and we just don’t think anyone in his camp is brave enough to tell him that his decisions are being destructive to his success. And that’s truly a shame.

      1. I agree with all this. …not to mention the generations of new fans he is losing fron lack of viral marketing…he does not realize that he can control how it is accessed. He is still a butthead old fart…lol!

  2. I believe Prince is very conscience of the decisions he’s making. He chose to be an independant artist than an artist on a major label due to 360 contracts and basic ownership. That being said in the current marketplace you can’t have your cake and eat it to as being on a major guarantee’s an Artist of his status Airplay/Spins of his current material and not a feature that he gets for his current releases.

  3. “And what can Prince fans do about it, if anything at all?”

    Simple solution:

    STOP being a fan … or “fam”.

    That’s all to it. If one continues to laud or support him in ANY WAY, ANYWHERE, we’re being facilitators. When you buy those tickets you’re supporting what he’s doing creatively or as a performer, recording and live artist BUT you’re also supporting the negative that comes with it. You’re chess piece.

    It’s worked for me. Not sure it will for everybody, to each his/her own, whatever makes you happy. For me, I’ve sold off almost every piece of my vast Prince collection.

    I mean, I still think, and probably most fans would also agree, that his Warner Bros. Records era is brilliant, incredible.

    But as soon as he left WB it’s been an mediocre experience in both being a fan and in his product. Its all suffered the very moment he went indie – creative vision, meandering mediocre inspiration, marketing, and he’s still suffering from poor art direction, you name it, have you seen the latest posters, website? Yikes.

    BUT Prince fans continue to praise him even though he’s sent most of them cease and desists… c’mon! Who’s fault is it really.

    I sold it all, won’t buy a single thing again, and but I’ll look back at what once was an incredible musician, visionary, all around talented genius. Today and the foreseeable future? Meh. In fact, I’m thinking of just leaving everything Prince and this may be my last public comment on Prince.

    I truly, TRULY think its two to three main reasons why he’s so off the tracks now – he’s again, INDIE, which means he just doesn’t have the caliber of talent, in their perspective roles, that supportive staff at Warner Bros had.

    The other, his master recordings and distribution fight with Warner Bros Records or what he could and couldn’t release when and how often probably was SO stressful that he must of completely done a blood pact with himself to not EVER let himself be taken advantage of. From either record companies, business entities, then the internet and its online services, etc. and by FANS.

    To some minuscule degree, I sort of agree with some of his moves though. I mean who are “bootleggers” to say what can be distributed with fancy covers and say its a “free music” release or “do not buy” this live or unreleased music. Its NOT theirs.

    But in terms of his extreme inflexibility in regards to his legacy, copyrighted music and claiming ‘copyright likeness’ on video, photo footage that DOES NOT belong to him and he’s got the money for lawyers to enforce this hypocrisy is beyond absurd.

    He’s not doing his legacy any favors and I don’t think he cares either. Truly a shame.

    Of course, he can choose to do with his career what he wants, its not paying my rent/mortgage/health care. So do I care? In the end, no, not really.

    Its more a disappointment than anything else. I revisit old Prince classic work and performances and relive them and the excitement and then after it the feeling of what happened sinks in.

    Lastly, his Jehovah Witness religious thing, its started soon after leaving WBs. It’s so deep a part of him now that I think most of these bad marketing moves can be directly attributed to extreme religious views.

    That’s why we may never see WB Records era remasters or even old vault work.

    Imagine – of course he won’t re-release, remaster ‘Head’ or add ‘Horny Toad’ to a special edition re-issue, but he may also NOT even release “safe” songs because his old spiritual views don’t align with his current organized religious views.

    Anyway, I have truly better things to do or think about, my advice, redirect your obsession and time back to YOURSELF. You, your health, your happiness matters more.

    “Wave your hands 4 positivity y’all!
    All the boys and all the girls (All the boys and all the girls)
    U R the NEW KINGS of the world!
    Shall the court sing together?”


    1. “my advice, redirect your obsession and time back to YOURSELF. You, your health, your happiness matters more.”
      probably the best advice i’ve been given in years but so hard to adhere to. i find reading about prince (any era) inspires me to record my own music…not that i am that much like him, it just gets me all excited about music – hardly any music really does that anymore, (maybe a few newer acts like janelle monae) – that said i need to get it in perspective as i’m starting to not listen to anyone else in spite of owning 1000’s of cd’s by every genre of artist and that’s just a waste!
      that said i find this new line up less musically adept than previous bands and though i’m pleased to see him rocking in a time it’s the least trendy thing to do, i hate that i can’t catch some on youtube! and i hate how he cleaned up his act too! dude’s still a genius tho. fuck ;-)x

  4. For me, Preenz is DEAD since 3 Chain O Gold. (God damned Mayte-Damon Dickson-Tommy Barbarella era, terrible years, oh my g-g-g-odd!! ) Do you remember the album from Endorphine Machine- 1958-1998? or something like this. He lies on the floor DEAD in the pics from inner pages. NEVER was the same again. His era was the 80s. He has tons of unreleased songs in his infamous Vault.

    Now to get things worse, he becomes a Jehova crap pseudo religion PR!!

    Thanks ya L. Graham to help “Preenz” to become a beggar instead of a King.

    He was/is a genius. He reached the TOP. Now there is no more skies to
    kiss. Now he formed a new band with younger amateur musicians girls. This is a cheaper way to get things under his thumb. Some poeple would kill to be in Preenz s band, others would be there for free, just for the sake to be there with The Man. Good move 4ya E.C.N.I.R.P. bad 4US.

    “May ya leave 2 Cee Da Down”

    1. That was the ’94 album ‘Come’ and yeah, its probably his last greatest album. Although many of the left over songs ended up on Gold Experience in ’95 but at that point it was all shaky style, muse, vision, he also released Exodus which was CRAP! A crass awful generic ear aching experience but FAMS love it!

      You know the fams, the obsessive ones that even if Prince lets one go, they need to record and archive it and list how many seconds, the decibels reached, the venue… time wasting stuff that DOES NOT MATTER.

      And yeah, I barely could watch that screencast or shreecast cast were after the Myth show they discussed along with Bobby Z and Andre Cymone gushing and gushing over Prince playing his best… prrffft!

      Out of no where Andre re-appears and is like gushing like a little fam over Prince… wEirD!

      And Bobby Z. man… well, he’s got to say nothing but good things regardless, suddenly after years he’s Prince’s best friend… WHO KNEW!?!

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