April 28th 2016

Prince, The Tech Innovator.

Posted by Will Shadbolt

In the years preceding his recent death, Prince came under fire for refusing to adapt to the digital age. None of his songs were posted on Youtube, not even as covers, and he lacked his own Vevo channel to officially post music on. What’s more, he was not afraid to hit fans hard when they uploaded his songs or videos of his concerts to file-sharing sites. Critics argued that a whole generation which has discovered all sorts of artists on these websites were missing out on Prince’s hit singles. As a result, he was thought to be giving up the opportunity to reach out to potential fans. The numerous tributes following his death, however, debunked that theory: the musician is just as popular as ever. And the idea of Prince stuck in ages past is slowly losing its steam as well.

Although Prince may not have embraced new technology in the same manner as his contemporary musicians, he was still an innovator and early adopter of the internet.

His flirtation with the medium began back in 1997, when he sold a three-CD set entitled “Crystal Ball” online. Consumers could also order it over the phone by using a special number (1-800-NEW-FUNK) that sold Prince albums and paraphernalia, but he was among the first pop stars to even offer an e-commerce option.

In 2001, he posted his NPG Music Club website, which sent out new Prince songs to consumers (some available only through the service) for a monthly subscription fee. Though now this might seem like nothing special, 15 years ago the site was groundbreaking. Prince’s innovative approach culminated in 2006, when he was awarded a Webby Lifetime Achievement Award for his business strategies. Unfortunately, that was also the year Prince changed his mind about the idea and shut down the website, marking the beginning of the idea that “Prince hates the internet.” 

Still, this is a simplistic view. Throughout the 80s and 90s Prince warred with his record label, Warner Music, for rights over his creative work. At one concert he even entered the stage with the word “slave” stylized in marker on his cheek. Prince was not afraid to fight for control, creative or otherwise, of his music, and he applied this personal philosophy to the internet as well. It’s understandable that a musician would hate people pirating his music online. It’s also understandable (and probable) that said musician would loathe going through middlemen streaming services. And as issues online were worked out, he began to embrace the internet: in 2013 his band created a Youtube account, 3rdEyeGirl, and shortly before his death he put his music up on streaming services. 

Rather than saying that Prince hated the internet, it would be better to say Prince loved it—but was not afraid to put his foot down when some kinks in the new systems surfaced. Who knows, maybe if the pop star had lived another 10 years while problems with streaming and payments to artists were fixed, he might have been one of the biggest proponents of the medium—and still looking for ways to innovate. 

Like Prince, Giovatto Advertising is committed to innovation. We have our own in-house production studio and are prepared to use the web in all sorts of ways for our clients. Give us a call today and we’ll be sure to give you the innovative ad campaign you need!

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