As I sit and listen to Prince’s new album (included as a cover disk on yesterday’s Sunday Mail), I’m forced to ask myself about this “industry first”. While the man previously known as the man with no name may have stolen a march with the act, he’s not the first to have achieved the outcome.
Prince reputedly received a million-dollar sum for allowing his latest release to be issued in this way. Now, given that producing an album costs hundreds of thousands, in essence he will have been able to cover his recording costs. I might be assuming too much here but the single, most important benefit is artistic freedom.
Marillion went down a similar track when they invited their fans to pre-order an album before it was written, but while they may have been first with the Internet marketing idea, again, they are unlikely to be the first band to release themselves from the shackles of a contract by finding money outside the recording biz. No doubt, as well, there will be other initiatives.
What both of these examples share is that the artists have minimised sales risk with a non-refundable advance. In neither case is artistic integrity compromised, and both rely on thinking about the bigger picture of sales and marketing to ensure that they’re doing more than covering the costs.
There will be other ways of doing this – no doubt in ten years’ time we will look back on “firsts” of albums being paid for through government funding, bank loans, lottery wins and Google ads. What with Myspace as the incubator, and with artists understanding they stand to be just as successful (and potentially better off) without major label backing, it becomes less and less clear exactly how the music industry is going to retain any position it has left.
P.S. The album’s pretty good as well!