So this week, while all the blogosphere was abuzz about George Michael's SEVENTH car crash, LeAnn Rimes' controversial canoodling pics with boyfriend Eddie Cibrian, Crystal Bowersox's new teeth, Liz Phair's credibility-killing new musical direction, and the Grammys' revised eligibility rules, the World Wide Web itself was under attack by Prince, aka The Artist Formerly Known As The Internet's Biggest Supporter. Yes, online readers, according to His Purple Majesty's new royal decree, the Internet is kaput. Over. Finished. You may as well turn off this website and go back to your abacus now.
"The Internet's completely over," Prince declared to England's Daily Mirror, sounding like he's ready to party not quite like it's 1999, but more like '79. "I don't see why I should give my new music to iTunes or anyone else [digitally]. They won't pay me an advance for it, and then they get angry when they can't get it....All these computers and digital gadgets are no good. They just fill your head with numbers and that can't be good for you."
Prince's rejection of all thing Interweb came as quite a shock, considering that the man was once seemingly completely besotted with the digital revolution. For a man who very publicly battled with his record label, Warner Bros., because he wanted to release more product than Warner was willing to, a guy with hundreds of unreleased songs under his purple belt, it seemed like the perfect means to get all that music to the fans, eliminating the middleman.
So after Prince escaped from the clutches of Warner Bros. in the mid-'90s, he released a series of increasingly little-heard albums on his own label, NPG Records--some of which were only available through (you guessed it) the Internet. And even as recently as March 2009, Prince was introducing a heavily promoted new subscription website, LotusFlow3r.com; for an annual membership of $77, fans would theoretically not only get the digital version of the three-CD set he was releasing through Target at that time, but loads of new and unreleased material unavailable anywhere else. But as the Wall Street Journal reported this past April, the website turned out to be a bust, at least for the disgruntled followers who never got the stream of rarities and bonuses they were expecting. And just as the mercurial Prince put the kibosh on his New Power Generation Music Club subscription site back in 2006, early this year he gave the order for the LotusFlow3r.com site to be shut down as well.
And now it seems like Prince wants ALL sites to be shut down--including iTunes!
While Forbes writer Quentin Hardy surprisingly sided with Prince (in an article self-explanatorily titled "Prince Is Right. The Internet Is Over."--which, ironically, was widely read on THE FORBES.COM WEBSITE), most musicians weren't so quick to turn their backs on the entire Interweb. Even soft-jazz saxophonist Kenny G--a man no one ever thought would seem cooler than Prince--spoke out against Prince's remarks, jokingly telling the Associated Press: "If the Internet is dead then I must be dead too, 'cause I use it all the time. Maybe I've got a sixth sense, and I only see dead people." The very-much-alive Mr. G then expressed every intention to continue distributing and promoting his new album, Heart & Soul, digitally. Additionally, many other, hipper artists who've embraced online distribution--Radiohead, Trent Reznor, Beck, and Lil' Wayne and countless other mixtape-popularized rappers--hardly jumped to Prince's defense, and not even Metallica's Lars Ulrich, once Napster's most angry opponent, spoke up.
Maybe all this is a sign o' the times, so to speak. After all, it's understandable in this post-Napster age that artists might no longer be in favor of a completely open Internet, since many industry pundits argue that it is illegal file-sharing and even legal free downloads and streams that are responsible for their music biz's current slump. Still, it seems a little silly to expect people to abandon their "digital gadgets" and the online distribution methods (iTunes, Rhapsody) via which the majority of avid music fans play and receive their music nowadays. But, IF Prince is right, then what is going to replace the Internet? Will Prince will release his next album on 8-track, wax cylinder, or in the "smoke signal" format long favored by traditionalists? No, in all seriousness, the distribution model Prince is now favoring is...giving his music away free with newspapers.
Yes, Prince's latest CD, 20Ten, will be included with July 10 copies of the Daily Mirror in the U.K. and Daily Record in Ireland, as well as other print publications in Belgium and Germany. For someone making the argument that music is undervalued, Prince has a funny way of proving its integrity when he gives CDs away like shampoo samples. (Maybe, somewhere along the way, he confused his Parade album with the Parade magazine included in many Sunday papers.) There's no plan yet to distribute 20Ten in America, but Prince is reportedly in talks with his old label, Warner Bros. (yep, the aforementioned "slave"-drivers who allegedly held him so captive that he was forced to carve S.O.S. messages into his sideburns) for a future U.S. release. Apparently Prince is so convinced that the Internet is over, he's not the least bit concerned about hundreds of thousands of Europeans, who will receive free copies of 20Ten this weekend, leaking the album online for all interested Americans to hear.
And, highly ironically, right now three preview samples from Prince's new CD are available for streaming on...the Daily Mirror's website. So maybe the web isn't obsolete after all. But just in case, check the songs out by clicking here...quick, before the Internet self-destructs!
See ya next week.
THIS WEEK'S TOP 10 NEWS STORIES:
1) Let's Go Crazy! Offline! - The ever-eccentric Prince proclaims the death of the Internet.
2) The Grammy Gaga Effect - The Grammys change eligibility rules for the Best New Artist category, following Lady Gaga's shutout this year.
3) The Show Might Not Go On - Concert ticket sales fall to their lowest point since 2005, down $200 million in revenue compared to last year.
4) George Michael Arrested After Seventh Auto Crash - Apparently the "Careless Whisper" singer is also a careless driver.
5) Leave LeAnn Alone! - Rimes is the latest celebrity Twitter quitter, after a public fuss over "racy" photos gets out of hand.
6) Ringo Starr Celebrates 70th Birthday, '60s-Style - The septuagenarian parties with a global love-in staged in Times Square.
7) Crystal Bowersox Sinks Teeth Into Hollywood - The "American Idol" runner-up Twitpics her new, cosmetically corrected A-list smile.
8) Dion Doubles Her Fun (And Diapers) - Celine reveals that her expected twins are boys.
9) Jenny Won't Play Cyprus Block - Jennifer Lopez cancels a concert in Turkish-held north Cyprus after protests.
10) Exile In "Bollywood" - Liz Phair's bizarre new single confounds critics.