“Maybe you’re just like my mother, she’s never satisfied”: the words to Prince’s classic ‘When Doves Cry’ might have been written in response to the hounding he has come in for from streaming sites and fans wanting to access his music online.
The Purple One revolutionised the way we listen to music when in 2001 he became one of the first artists to share his new music exclusively online through his award winning NPG Music Club. Prince was always keen to ensure that no one else stole royalties that quite rightly belonged to him, after arguments with Warner Bros.
In 2015, he pulled all music from every streaming site (including YouTube), before agreeing a complex deal for Jay Z’s Tidal service to have exclusive streaming rights. It was believed Prince chose Tidal because of the better deal it offers artists compared to penny-pinching competitors such as Spotify and Apple Music. This after he had previously declared in an interview prior to the release of Planet Earth that “the internet’s completely over”.
Now that’s all about to change.
At the end of January it emerged that Prince’s estate had agreed to allow his music to return to all the services he had previously pulled music from. Purple Spotify adverts around London and New York had aroused suspicion for a while. However it has now been confirmed.
The decision certainly doesn’t come without its fair share of ‘Controversy’ (geddit?), is it right to go against a dead man’s wishes?
Personally, I’m torn. I want to hear ‘Purple Rain’ even while experiencing the disappointment of yet another rail replacement bus service; I want to listen to the confident and cocksure riff of 2007’s ‘Guitar’ after a small personal victory; and who doesn’t want to listen to what is in my opinion the greatest pop song of all time, ‘Raspberry Beret’. There is, however, something about the announcement that doesn’t sit well with me, given that this is a man who changed his name toin order to remove the shackles of his record deal with Warner Bros. He was strong in his beliefs, and who are we to overrule them?
I can certainly understand the reasoning behind the decision of his estate: the best way to ensure the icon’s music lives on is to make it available for everyone. It could be argued however that making it available to everyone means Prince’s much publicised love of creative control was all in vain. Imagine if a streaming service was to allow users to stream the mysterious Black Album, pulled from shops after being deemed “evil” by The Purple One himself.
The decision also allows Prince’s music to be played in public for the first time in years, another thing that nobody can tell if the late pop star wanted. Prince was very keen on ensuring that his music maintained its value. Nobody knows if he wanted Poundland’s customers to listen to the lines “You don’t have to be rich, to be my girl” while queuing up to buy a packet of cheap and cheerful tea cakes.
In the end it comes down to legacy. It’s obvious that Prince’s music will thrive on streaming sites, therefore continuing his legacy forever. However, doesn’t the fact that those classic records aren’t available to everyone, just make them all more lucrative additions to our record collections? Maybe I’m being a bit elitist here with just about all The Purple One’s back catalogue in the family record collection, but I think Prince’s music is probably better off staying that little bit elusive. Either that, or moving back to digital streaming is just a ‘Sign O’ The Times’.