When I wrote a blog in praise of Prince’s performance at the Coachella festival in California, I included a link to a YouTube clip of his much-discussed cover of Radiohead’s Creep. However, as I feared, said link was dead before the blue Hyper-ink had dried.
Prince, you see, doesn’t like people posting content that he feels he owns. In 2007, he employed Web Sheriff to go after those sites that were infringing his copyright, resulting in countless videos, audio files, images and lyrics being removed.
Things took another twist last week, though, when Radiohead’s Thom Yorke spoke out against Prince’s insistence that the videos of Creep be taken down. In fact, he went a step further, saying that, as copyright owners of the song, Radiohead would actively like to see them back on YouTube.
Given that Prince was one of the first big-name artists to see beyond the traditional record company system and embrace the internet as a means of distributing his music, there’s a frustrating irony in the fact that he now seems to be demanding total control. My view, and that of many others, is that he’s fighting a battle that, in the long-term, he can’t hope to win.
Swimming against the tide
It’s certainly fair to say that Prince-related media content is not so easy to find on the web as it once was, but if you look hard enough, it’s still there. Trying to control the internet is like trying to catch the (purple) rain in your hands, and in attempting to do so, Prince is making exactly the same mistake as the recording industry that he extricated himself from.
Much as they’ve tried, the record companies haven’t been able to stop file-sharing and nor will they. I can’t tell you what kind of model they need to adopt in order to survive – or whether such a model even exists - but I’m pretty sure it won’t be the one that sees them going to war with their own customers.
Prince needs to take a step back and consider how best he can make the internet work for him. Eventually, he may come to realise that, far from acting against his interests, fan-recorded clips of him playing live will encourage rather than deter people from attending his shows.
So, here’s that Creep cover once again (it was re-posted on YouTube at the weekend). I can only hope that the link still works when you click it.
By Ben Rogerson