Prince versus the internet

By now you’ve probably heard about the artist currently known as Prince declaring that “the internet’s completely over.” You probably read about it on the internet.

I have always had a soft spot in my heart for eccentrics. Despite the fact that I’ve never supported the idea of monarchy or imperialism, if Emperor Norton were still around, I’d declare myself a subject, based purely on the fact that I respect a guy who just decided one day that he totally ruled. The world needs eccentricity like a donut needs sprinkles.

Prince qualifies as an eccentric, I think. And part of being eccentric is the right to talk bonkers now and then. I can’t help but wonder, though, what he means when he says the internet is over. Does he mean it was cool once and now it’s lame? I hate to think that’s what he means. I can’t imagine he yearns for the days of dial-up. Does he mean the internet is failing, falling apart as an information/communication/commerce thingie? He’s talking about commerce in particular, I think, since he follows this by saying he sees no reason to sell his songs on iTunes.

I wonder if Prince, in past lives, said similar things. Did he sit on an ox declaring no need to use a horse-drawn plough? Did he say there was no way the printing press would ever take the place of scribes?

I think there is absolutely no way in God’s purple earth that he is anywhere approaching accurate when he says the internet is over. It stands out as one of the most wonky statements since Miss Teen South Carolina 2007 gave her famous assessment of America’s difficulties with cartography. The only way he could be right about this is if he lived in a parallel dimension, maybe on a funky little island, and we are all ghosts using the Internet in an Earth-2 purgatory because we cannot let go of our attachment to “computers and gadgets” but some day he’ll meet us in a big church and lead us to the light. Yeah.

I can understand an artist’s need to protect his or her art and to keep it profitable. I can understand how some would be very cautious about the way material spreads online. But I don’t even know for a moment why Prince would say something so dopey, save that he’s one of the few artists who scours the internet vehemently demanding songs and photos be taken down, and this takes time and lawyers. So while other artists are doing just fine online, I expect Prince must be losing money because of his expensive paranoia. He’s even shut down his own website. I give him points for being thorough, at least.

I think artists need critique, and money attracts sycophants. I may be completely wrong about this, but I think perhaps Prince doesn’t have many people in his life telling him “No.” “No, you are wrong, clearly wrong, really most sincerely wrong.” I think mostly he has a lot of money and a lot of people telling him everything he thinks is perfect genius, and so there’s no counterbalance to the sillier assumptions. Perhaps there are too many Jeromes to his Morris Day. Or maybe he’s just authentically, unequivocally wrong-headed when it comes to this stuff.

I can’t help but think of Radiohead as his polar opposite in terms of embracing the online world. They’ve stated that piracy won’t kill the music industry, but the labels’ failure to adapt new business models will. By the way, a few years ago, Prince covered “Creep” at Coachella. I saw it on YouTube before he ordered it taken down. It was quite good! The guys in Radiohead wanted him to put it back up, in fact.

Prince’s new CD will be released only by The Mirror. I think it’s generous of him to make it available for free to Mirror subscribers. He’s claiming, however, according to the interview, that there will be no downloadable version anywhere. This I very much doubt. I expect it’ll be the most heavily, perhaps vengefully, pirated CD of the year.

When Jason Henninger isn’t reading, writing, juggling, cooking or raising evil genii, he works for Living Buddhism magazine in Santa Monica, CA. He wonders who edits the Wikipedia entry on the Amish.


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