Prince was adamant about protecting his copyrights. He owned the song publishing rights to his music and vigorously pursued online outlets that used it without permission. That’s why it’s been tough to find many of his songs on outlets like YouTube following his death on Thursday.
Today, many artists are pursuing a similar path, determined to control where their music goes and insisting on getting paid when it’s online. That’s why artists like Taylor Swift and Adele put some songs on Spotify, but not their recent albums or back catalogs, which they reserve for paying customers on other services.
Here’s a quick recap of five things Prince said over the years that describe his view of the role of artists in an era of high technology:
“THE INTERNET’S COMPLETELY OVER”
In a July 2010 interview with Daily Mirror reporter Peter Willis, Prince says he’s releasing his album “20TEN” to Daily Mirror readers as a CD for free. In the interview, he complains that outlets like iTunes don’t pay advances for music and compares the Internet to a passing fad like MTV.
RINGTONES? UH UH
If you use a Prince song as a ringtone, you should know his Royal Badness did not approve. In a June 2011 interview with The Guardian’s Dorian Lynskey, Prince says he can’t stand digital music, nor the cacophony of ringtones it enables. “Have you ever been in a room where there’s 17 ringtones going off at once?”
DOES HE HAVE AN IPHONE? “HELL, NO”
Prince not only disdains the Internet, he forgoes the tools to access it. Asked in a July 2013 story by V Magazine’s Vanessa Grigoriadis if he owns an iPhone, Prince responds : “Are you serious? Hell, no.” He then mimics a high-voiced woman who has lost hers. He also touts the pleasures of listening to Joni Mitchell on vinyl.
THE INTERNET: “WE WERE SAYING IT WAS DEAD TO US — DEAD ENERGY”
Prince explains his Internet comment to AP’s Nekesa Mumbi Moody in an exclusive interview at his Paisley Park compound in September 2014, even as he queues up songs on YouTube from artists such as James Brown and FKA Twigs. At the time, his music is on both iTunes and Spotify. Today, major artists from Taylor Swift to Adele to Kanye West are picking and choosing where their music is released, just as Prince did.
“SPOTIFY WASN’T PAYING, SO YOU GOTTA SHUT IT DOWN”
In an interview with Ebony’s Miles Marshall Lewis published in December, Prince explains why he’s removing his music from most streaming services and putting it all on Tidal. But the magazine removed the interview at Prince’s request, according to Billboard ; all that remains on Ebony’s website now is Prince’s insistence that artist ownership of the means of distribution is important. “Where we finally get into a position to run things — we all should help.”