Wednesday, July 7, 2010

The 'Prince' is 'Dead' -- Long Live the Internet

Apparently, the Internet is dead -- it just doesn't know it yet. 

According to Prince (that is, the man once known as Prince, then known as some strange symbol and now apparently known once more as Prince), "The internet is completely over". However, his argument as to why the Internet is dead is not what one might expect. Rather than claiming that the Internet is nothing more than an extension of mass media, or something in that vein, Prince maintains that:
The internet is completely over. I don’t see why I should give my new music to iTunes or anyone else. They won’t pay me an advance for it and then they get angry when they can’t get it.
 This argument sounds less like support for the notion that the Internet is dead, and more like a case of sour grapes. If they won't pay, then the Internet must therefore be dead ---- Huh? Seriously, considering the lackluster career Prince has had in the last 15 years (some would say 20-25 years), he should be welcoming the use of the Internet as a way to enhance his profit margin and reach a whole new generation of fans.

On the contrary, instead of using the Internet to his advantage, Prince is claiming that new media 'gadgets' are bad. Not only is he prosecuting those who use his songs/work on YouTube, blogs, etc... but he has now deleted his personal/'official' webpage -- oh my, how will the world manage without the 'official' web presence of Prince (or the man currently known as Prince, who may in fact change his name at any moment).

The crux of Prince's argument is that the Internet has outlived it's usefulness:
The internet’s [sic] like MTV. At one time MTV was hip and suddenly it became outdated.
Considering the massive growth in the use of the Internet and social media by the 14-35 age groups, Prince's argument not only doesn't hold up, it suggests that the man is completely out of touch with reality. For instance, according to the Nielsen Internet Statistics:
Three of the world’s most popular brands online are social-media related (Facebook, YouTube and Wikipedia) and the world now spends over 110 billion minutes on social networks and blog sites. This equates to 22 percent of all time online or one in every four and half minutes. For the first time ever, social network or blog sites are visited by three quarters of global consumers who go online, after the numbers of people visiting these sites increased by 24% over last year. The average visitor spends 66% more time on these sites than a year ago, almost 6 hours in April 2010 versus 3 hours, 31 minutes last year.
Let's face it, the reality is that Internet use -- nay reliance -- is continuing to grow and in the current entertainment marketplace a smart entertainer will reach audiences and fans where they live -- online.

Look around. Every star of any note has a Facebook page (authorized or unauthorized), webpage (authorized and/or unauthorized), and can be found 'tweeting' (although 'twitting' would be more appropriate for some of the starlets -- best left unnamed considering they are currently in the news) about the skinny, soy, latte they just bought at

However, the saturated usage of the Internet (and in particular social media) by entertainers raises other questions: Does the constant exposure help or hurt their careers? Does the constant exposure encourage unhealthy behavior by fans (stalking and the like)? Does the constant exposure cause fans to become 'desensitized' to the 'appeal' of the star. While these are outside the scope of the current post, they are interesting questions to be considered.

By using the Internet based forums that the fans use regularly as a means of promoting themselves, stars are in many ways not only encouraging fans to talk to them, but also about them. The issue then becomes one of control. That is to say, when a fan is commenting or tweeting to a star, the star has 'veto power' and can censor the comments/tweets that appear on their pages. However, once a fan starts talking about a star on their own Twitter feeds, Facebook page, blog, etc..., the star no longer has any control over what is said, how it is said, what aspects of their life are examined, etc....

Stars like Prince are trying to control a medium that at its heart is controlled by the people. The people create webpages, YouTube videos, blogs, etc... and put them out there for the world to see. They control what they create, how they communicate it, what they read/interact with and how they read/interact with it. As part of this, they 'borrow' media from other sources. It is important to realize that in many cases, this 'borrowing' is not meant to be malicious, rather people are using these other media sources as a means of enhancing their message. Yes, there is a fine line between enhancing one's own message and intentionally claiming another's work as their own (which is more or less, the key to copyright infringement). However, it is the inherent flexibility and creativity possible via the Internet that makes it such a wonderful medium for expression -- expressing one's own thoughts, dreams and even, devotion to a particular star.

By pulling his web presence and prosecuting those who use his music, image and words as part of their Internet creations, Prince is essentially biting the hand that feeds him. That said, it is no great loss to the world of entertainment or Internet creativity, as there are hundreds if not thousands of entertainers who would gladly encourage fans to talk about them and essentially reap the benefits of an Internet connected, social media saturated audience.

In short -- it's your loss Prince...please take your bat, ball and music, and go home.

'Prince's  career is 'dead' -- Long live the Internet!

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