Prince has deactivated all his social media accounts, including removing much of what he has had on YouTube and SoundCloud. His two most recent albums are still available to stream via Spotify.
The reclusive Purple Rain singer shocked his fans when he suddenly joined Instagram, Facebook and Twitter earlier this year, ahead of a series of concerts, so it’s no real surprise that he’s left as abruptly, especially considering his statement in 2010, that “the internet is completely over.”
It’s just the latest shot by artists to regain control of their intellectual property, which has seen Taylor Swift remove her entire catalogue from Spotify. Conversely, Foo Fighters’ Dave Grohl told Digital Spy:
“Me personally? I don’t fucking care. That’s just me, because I’m playing two nights at Wembley next summer. I want people to hear our music. I don’t care if you pay $1 or fucking $20 for it; just listen to the fucking song. But I can understand how other people would object to that.”
U2 frontman Bono continues this line of thought, speaking at the Web Summit conference held earlier this month in Dublin,
“The real enemy is not between digital downloads or streaming, the real enemy, the real fight is between opacity and transparency. The music business has historically involved itself in quite considerable deceit.
“But if we change that bit, and people can actually see how many times they’re being played, where they’re being played, get access to information on the people who are listening to them, get paid direct debit… I think those payments will add up to something, as the world gets more transparent.
“When people pick on Spotify: Spotify are giving up 70% of all their revenues to rights owners. It’s just that people don’t know where the money is because the record labels haven’t been transparent.
“That hasn’t been the demand: that will be the demand… That’s the thing to look for: transparency or opacity. For this new model to be successful and to take root, there has to be some kind of fairness… fair models of distribution. And I think when that happens, the music business will be a rising tide that lifts all boats.”
More and more artists are taking control of their music, and leaving big record labels and mega-management in order to return to a grass-roots way of doing things. Multi-Grammy winner Macklemore is just one such artist, who has found success via YouTube. Speaking last year to TechDirt, Macklemore said about his decision not to go to the traditional route of signing with a label:
“…there’s no reason to do it. With the power of the internet and with the real personal relationship that you can have via social media with your fans… I mean everyone talks about MTV and the music industry, and how MTV doesn’t play videos any more — YouTube has obviously completely replaced that. It doesn’t matter that MTV doesn’t play videos. It matters that we have YouTube and that has been our greatest resource in terms of connecting, having our identity, creating a brand, showing the world who we are via YouTube.”
Similarly, Jedward, a favourite here at EP, eschewed record label and management, choosing to take the independent route. The Dublin twins have long maintained control of their music videos, making the majority by themselves, and now are in the process of releasing their fourth album under their own label, Planet Jedward. Currently managed by their mother, they have seen their career change tack from one which, although it made them a lot of money, saw them doing things that they would not choose to do on their own. Nowadays they are free to release the songs they want (which they have also written and produced themselves), rather than those songs chosen for them. They are a major force in social media, seeing it as a very important promotional tool, and their @planetjedward Twitter often finds its way on lists of accounts one “must follow”.
It seems clear that the music industry is on the brink of revolution, with artists wanting to get their fair share. But in this day and age, unless your name alone sells records (like Prince), is it possible to succeed without social media? Is going independent the way to go, even if it means taking on a workload far greater than you’d ever imagined? Is there a wrong or right answer, a perfect formula for success these days?
We live in interesting times, and it remains to be seen what happens next.