A look at Prince as he explores ways to leave the old model behind: The Once and Future Prince
I’VE got lots of money!” Prince exults in “The One U Wanna C,” a come-on from his new album, “Planet Earth” (Columbia). There’s no reason to disbelieve him. With a sponsorship deal here and an exclusive show there, worldwide television appearances and music given away, Prince has remade himself as a 21st-century pop star. As recording companies bemoan a crumbling market, Prince is demonstrating that charisma and the willingness to go out and perform are still bankable. He doesn’t have to go multiplatinum — he’s multiplatform.
[...] Prince’s priorities are obvious. The main one is getting his music to an audience, whether it’s purchased or not. “Prince’s only aim is to get music direct to those that want to hear it,” his spokesman said when announcing that The Mail would include the CD. (After the newspaper giveaway was announced, Columbia Records’ corporate parent, Sony Music, chose not to release “Planet Earth” for retail sale in Britain.) Other musicians may think that their best chance at a livelihood is locking away their music — impossible as that is in the digital era — and demanding that fans buy everything they want to hear. But Prince is confident that his listeners will support him, if not through CD sales then at shows or through other deals.
Of course, not everyone is happy with this sort of play: Bands and brands going hand in hand — pdf (earlier post on the Doc Martens ads)
At a moment in the musical continuum when Iggy Pop’s ode to deviant hedonism, “Lust for Life” — a song in which he repeatedly pledges against temptation: “No more beating my brain with liquor and drugs” — plays in spots for Royal Caribbean Cruises, and bubblegum diva Fergie recently inked a reported $4-million deal to sing about Candie’s teen apparel on her next album, the use of pop in ads no longer carries the sellout stigma it held for the Woodstock generation, or even in the ’90s, when “Alternative” was a stand-alone musical category and indie music was still heard on commercial radio.
As has been reported, that’s due in part to more artists reluctantly warming to the idea that licensing agreements are a necessary evil, generating revenue and creating “exposure” in an era of plummeting record sales and dwindling opportunities for commercial airplay — even if that means losing some existing fans in the process.
Advertisers, for their part, are harnessing pop’s powerful potential for cross-branded synergy more aggressively and variously than ever. One side effect: Commissions for original music for ads are down, and licensing music from established and emerging artists is through the roof, marketers say.
It’s a mixed blessing that can introduce underground artists to a wider fan base (as a current Motorola phone spot has, creating a minor ring-tone hit out of glitch-hop artist Dabrye’s “Hyped-Up Plus Tax”). But just as often, ad pop adulterates musical chestnuts (such as EMF’s 1991 hit “Unbelievable,” repurposed as the jingle “Crumbelievable” in the service of Kraft cheese) and can distort a song’s original intent, as a 1995 Mercedes-Benz commercial did by using Janis Joplin’s lampoon of consumer culture “Mercedes Benz” as a straight-ahead product endorsement.
[Speaking of multiplatforming as a model, this article on Domo-kun, a Photoshop staple, moving to another platform: With nary a broadcast, a TV star is born (pdf)]