Friday, April 02, 2004

Odd Bedfellows: Prince and George Michael

The distribution of electronic music and the proliferation of online fanclubs have made the internet an audiophile's dream. Most popular artists have an online presence and some do it better than others.

In the past few weeks I have learned about two interesting new events:

George Michael has announced that he has made plenty of money and working with record companies has become so tedious that his future releases will be available to download online for free.

Prince is opening his own online music download site where listeners can buy individual cuts for ninety-nine cents and entire albums for $9.99. These are rather standard prices and match what users pay at iTunes and Napster. The difference at the Prince Musicology Store is the availability of live and unreleased material. Also, a $25.00 lifetime membership to his online fanclub provides fans unlimited downloads of this material!

These two events fly in the face of mainstream, middle-of-the-road fan sites that extort a monthly fee for nominal content, no free downloads, access to full-fee Ticketmaster atrocities, and little or no participation by the artist. These sites take your credit card number and begin charging you a monthly, quarterly or annual fee for the privilege of spending more money at their online store, and not much else! See The Rolling Stones site (and other Ultrastar portals) for an example of sites that fit this anti-fan paradigm!

I belonged to a fan website for sixty bucks a year, and it doesn't even include a discography of the artist's work! You had to leave the site and go to a site built by a fan to get information about the artist's music!

Prince's idea of twenty-five bucks for a lifetime membership is a remarkably good deal, and I think he is onto something here. Rewarding your dedicated fanbase with access to tickets and unlimited musical downloads for a nominal one-time membership fee will attract new fans. If I was a Prince fan, I would be sending $25.00 immediately. I might sign-up anyhow, just to support the idea!

George Michael's idea is too good to be true, and I find it hard to believe that he will really give away his music from this point forward. (I might actually listen to one of his songs now!) Time will tell, and if he succeeds, if he remains famous and rich while distributing his art for free, he could have an actual impact on the industry.

It will be important to ignore the press releases that management companies will write to discredit Michael. Ignore the lies from press sluts hired by the likes of Mick Jagger, Ozzy Osbourne, David Bowie, Paul McCartney, and Metallica. If we could support ideas like George Michael's, there might be a shift in the market and the music industry might actually return to being owned by people interested in music!

I applaud Prince and George Michael.


Prince news story

George Michael news story

Prince's website

Michael's website