Tuesday, July 6, 2010
In case you missed it, Prince announced that his new album would not be available digitally because "the Internet is dead". He goes on to compare it MTV; something that started off cool, but got so bastardized that it became unrecognizable and devoid of the appeal that made it a success in the first place.
As you can imagine, a bold statement like this sparked a lot of discussion on blogs and discussion forums, but there was one key point I haven't seen anyone address. The method Prince will be using to distribute his new album? It will be given away free with an issue of the tabloid newspaper the Daily Mirror. A frigging NEWSPAPER - practically the most glaring example of an outdated form of communication and an industry that is almost universally failing and slowly dying out. And where are the newspapers that are failing headed to try and sustain their business? The Internet. Would you like some irony with your irony?
I will say this. The promise of the Internet as a promotional tool for bands has always been grossly overstated. Radiohead and Nine Inch Nails, collectively the poster children for the "we don't need labels anymore" movement are only able to do what they're doing because they've benefited from 20 years of major label money, advertising, and tour support. An occasional example like the Arctic Monkeys or Lily Allen comes out of nowhere and gains a huge following thanks to the MySpace, but these are extremely rare exceptions to the rule. And lets face it... MySpace is a ghost town these days. It's basically become a place where people try to serial friend as many people as possible and then spam them with "buy my album" comments that pretty much everyone ignores.
This is the weakness of the Internet as a promotional medium. Since it takes virtually no money or effort, EVERYONE does it to the point that the signal to noise ratio is so poor as to make it hard for people to separate the wheat from the chaff and find stuff they'll like. These are issues that I suspect will be figured out eventually. Regardless of its present weaknesses, anyone who doesn't recognize digital distribution as the future of the music industry is either misinformed or simply delusional. Look, I'm in my late 30's. I grew up with vinyl, cassette, and CD. I love physical formats. But the writing is on the wall. The new generation prefers their music digitally, and if we as musicians want to sell our music, we need to cater to that.