A Prince Among Brands
“Slave.” The visceral shock of seeing the word scrawled on Prince’s face will stay with my generation until we die. Gen Xers stared, transfixed by the on-stage musician in the 1990s as he silently flipped off his record label, asserting himself as once-and-for-all an independent brand.
And it was Prince — the artist and the icon — whom all generations mourned on Thursday afternoon when they learned of his passing — not the record label he fought. He was 57.
As platforms like Napster and Spotify gutted the music industry and ripped away profits from once-inviolable entities like record labels, Prince had long ago wrested back control of his songs and even his name.
Still innovating four decades after his first hit, the Associated Press summed up on Thursday how Prince continued to speak directly to his fans:
"Prince had been touring and recording right up until his death, releasing four albums in the last 18 months, including two on the Tidal streaming service last year,” reads the AP article Newsday posted. “He performed in Atlanta last week as part of his ‘Piano and a Microphone’ tour, a stripped down show that has featured a mix of his hits like ‘Purple Rain’ or ‘Little Red Corvette’ and some B-sides from his extensive library. Prince debuted the intimate format at his Paisley Park studios in January, treating fans to a performance that was personal and was both playful and emotional at times."
Synonymous with sex, Prince the brand was Prince the performer, selling songs like “Cream” with his dramatic wardrobe, seductive voice and concerts The New York Times eulogizes as using his “deep bedroom eyes and a sly, knowing smile” to flirt with his fans.
As of 2:15 p.m. on Thursday, AP reported:
“Sales of Prince’s music have soared since news broke of the pop star’s death. Three of his songs — ‘Purple Rain,’ ‘Little Red Corvette’ and ‘When Doves Cry,’ — surged to 7th, 9th and 10th on iTunes’ Top Songs chart. Four of his albums — ‘The Very Best of Prince,’ ‘Purple Rain,’ ‘The Hits / The B-Sides’ and ‘1999’ — jumped to 1st, 2nd, 3rd and 8th on iTunes’ Top Albums chart by Thursday afternoon."
[Author’s note: Perhaps as a sign of the ephemeral nature of the Internet, Prince’s songs no longer appeared on the iTunes charts when I checked at 4 p.m.]
Prince built a brand around his music and his genius before content marketing and personal branding became a 'thing' https://t.co/uEV6OAQvwp
— Ray Hennessey (@Hennesseyedit) April 21, 2016
— ArtGalleryofOntario (@agotoronto) April 21, 2016
How do you remember Prince the brand, marketers?
Please respond in the comments section below.
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