The music industry is modern-day “slavery.” Record labels are running a “shell game.” Music streaming
is sucking artists dry. And rights-management groups are nothing more than “collection agencies” that fail
to pass along any real money to artists. At least, that’s how Prince sees it.
In a private sit-down with 10 black journalists deep inside his Paisley Park Studios in suburban Minneapolis
Aug 8, the reclusive singer, musician and businessman explained his crusade to remake the music industry
and wrestle control back into the hands of musicians. “You just have to blow it up. That’s what it’s going to
take,” said the seven-time Grammy Award-winning mogul of what he describes as an unfair digital-royalty
structure that has emerged in the past few years.
As he leaned forward in his chair at the head of the glass-top conference table, the icon born as Prince
Rogers Nelson compared the music industry to slavery and called ASCAP, the American Society of Composers,
Authors and Publishers, little more than a “collection agency,” claiming that little of the royalties it collects from
streamers on behalf of its artists actually make it into the bank accounts of the artists themselves. He said that
he resigned from the organization.
Meanwhile, streaming services such as Spotify, Pandora and the new Apple Music are fast becoming the
major source of music consumption for consumers, supplanting traditional CD sales and even album downloads.
And with that change, Prince argued, has come a dramatic shift in how money is made and who gets paid.
The labels make the money. The streaming services make the money. The individual artist, he maintains, makes
little to nothing.
For instance, according to a recent analysis, each time a song is played on a streaming service such as Spotify,
an individual artist signed to a record label can make, on average, as little as $.0011. Yes, that’s about 1/10th
of a penny. And it’s even less if the artist is an independent. That’s why, last month, the day after Apple launched
its Apple Music streaming service, he pulled most of his catalog of music from most of those streaming services,
including Spotify, Rdio and Deezer. And that’s why, instead, he has signed on with Jay-Z’s Tidal music-streaming
service to exclusively stream and distribute his next album, HitNRun, on Sept. 7. Jay-Z invested in the company
earlier this year as a way to more equitably share revenues with artists, often bypassing the labels.
“I sat down with Jay, and I really like what he is doing,” said Prince. “He’s trying to eventually be a one-stop shop
for the artist.” The 57-year-old Prince had a clear message for any talented, up-and-coming artists who may be
seduced by lucrative recording contracts and promises of millions of dollars, fame and fortune: “Don’t sign.”
He firmly believes that once artists sign a contract, they are giving away their rights, their control to new revenue
streams and, ultimately, their independence.
Source: The Root