Pixel Envy

Written by Nick Heer.

Prince: Technologist and Luddite

Jon Caramanica, New York Times:

Many advances in music and technology over the last three decades — particularly in the realm of distribution — were tried early, and often first, by Prince. He released a CD-ROM in 1994, Prince Interactive, which featured unreleased music and a gamelike adventure at his Paisley Park Studios. In 1997, he made the multidisc set “Crystal Ball” available for sale online and through an 800 number (though there were fulfillment issues later). In 2001, he began a monthly online subscription service, the NPG Music Club, that lasted five years.

These experiments were made possible largely because of Prince’s career-long emphasis on ownership: At the time of his death, he reportedly owned the master recordings of all his output. With no major label to serve for most of the second half of his career and no constraints on distribution, he was free to try new modes of connection.

In keeping with his complete ownership, he effectively scrubbed the legitimate web of his music over the past few years, with Tidal being the sole streaming service offering his catalogue. This wasn’t, I don’t think, a fuck you to listeners, but rather a gamble that fans would buy his music anyway.

See Also: The Daily Dot uncovered and modernized the font that was shipped to members of the press after he began using the unpronounceable “love symbol”.