Prince has never made a secret of his biting distaste for the record industry. In 1993, he famously scrawled “slave” on his face to make a statement about his binding record contracts. Then he dropped his usual moniker and transformed into “the Artist Formerly Known As Prince” before later switching to an unpronounceable symbol.
He’s not the only artist to rage against the chains of record labels. Many artists have done the same with varying degrees of success. After Trent Reznor left Interscope in 2007, he released music as an independent artist. He was able to rely upon an already established fanbase for online releases with special box-set offerings as well. It’s quite telling that Reznor himself relented and signed with Columbia Records a few years ago. It’s a rough trade out there, and if Reznor couldn’t keep the indie model going, there’s not much hope for new artists to do so.
Prince spoke out again against record contracts to a small grouping of the media:
“Record contracts are just like — I’m gonna say the word — slavery,” Prince told a group of 10 journalists Saturday night, during a meet and greet at his Paisley Park Studios in Minneapolis. “I would tell any young artist … don’t sign.”
His pitch to the group was simple: Typical record company contracts turn artists into indentured servants with little control over how their music is used, particularly when it comes to revenue from streaming services playing their music online — and he wants to change that.
Prince suggests Tidal as an alternative to traditional record contracts. He doesn’t provide details on how new artists can take advantage of Jay-Z‘s service, but Prince believes the answer is coming. As with all things Tidal, we’ll just have to hold tight and see what happens.