Prince: A Strong Case for Physical Media

April 23, 2016

Written by wukovits

PrinceI appreciate music. I was one of those people that owned hundreds of CDs in the 80’s and 90’s, then started down the path of digital music in the late 90’s with MP3. By the time the iPhone came out in 2007, I had jumped in with both feet into the Apple ecosystem and had imported all of my CD collection into iTunes to use on my devices. Less than 10 years later, I now rely on Spotify for most of my on-demand music listening, with my iTunes library becoming a relic of the past. That is, until April 21, 2016, the day that Prince died.

2016 has been a hard year for those of us who love music. The passing of David Bowie affected me greatly, but what helped me to grieve and memorialize his life’s accomplishments has a visit down memory lane with his music. As soon as I heard the news, I searched for “David Bowie” on Spotify and began to stream his greatest hits. After that, I started digging into the albums, taking in his body of work, absorbing his legacy, all thanks to the convenience of “the cloud”.

I heard of Prince’s death while I was at lunch that day and I was rendered speechless. After my meeting, I jumped in the car and immediately opened Spotify and searched for “Prince”. He showed up, but he wasn’t the top result, which I found odd. Worse, the only thing available was a single for “Stare”, one of his songs from 2015. There were a couple of other tracks listed, on which he appears, but his entire catalog of music was nowhere to be found. Prince was quite a prolific musician; I understand that between 2000 and today, he released 15 albums, nearly one per year.

Not to be dissuaded from my need for instant gratification for Prince tunes, I jumped online to find another source for streaming Prince music, turning to Apple Music. I hit another dead end. When I got back to the office, I started digging into the reason that I couldn’t find the music of this fallen music icon through normal means. It seems that Prince pulled all his music from streaming services like Spotify and Apple Music last July. He, like some other artists, felt that the royalty rates being paid were not enough, and decided to use Tidal as the streaming platform for his music.

Tidal is another streaming music service, owned by Jay-Z, and its launch in 2014 drew criticism from fans and industry alike. With artists like Kanye West, Daft Punk, Rihanna, and others, the service offers “exclusive” content and higher quality streaming, all for a higher price tag of $20 per month. Now they offer a standard quality service at $10 per month as well, but I already subscribe to Spotify, and their selection of artists and music greatly trumps anything Tidal could hope to offer. The “exclusive” releases touted by Tidal included Kanye West’s latest album, “The Life of Pablo”, and they now are facing a class action lawsuit as a result. It seems that his album wasn’t exclusive for long and fans duped into subscribing to Tidal for the “privilege” of listening want justice. While I can’t say I blame them, there’s no sympathy from me if you need to listen to Kanye West that badly.

The sad and untimely death of Prince Rogers Nelson taught me a valuable lesson: while Spotify and the many other options for streaming music are my main resource for any music I want to hear, this was certainly a strong case for keeping physical media.

“In this life, things are much harder than in the afterworld. In this life, you’re on your own.” – Prince Rogers Nelson

I’d say Prince made it in this life. Enjoy the next one. Rest in peace.




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