I’ve talked quite a lot here about the future of music and of record labels’ role in it. Well last night I saw that future in action, and it was in the shape of an iconic Minneapolis superstar jumping around like a mad man on stage at the dome.
Prince has sold out 21 nights at the O2’s 20,000 capacity venue, managing to get a half a million Londoners to see this frankly knock-out show, without needing to resort to the ridiculous prices of the Madonna tours. As you go into the concert, you also get a free copy of his latest album. Before the uber-cool one comes on stage, we see promo videos for all the merchandise which is on sale outside, and then there’s the after show (where he played another 12 songs last night), for those that want to keep on going (and keep on spending).
In Prince’s case, after the huge row over the use of his name in the early 90s, I’m sure he’d like nothing more than the demise of the majors. And, of course, most artists can’t sell out 140,000 seats in 20 minutes (as Prince did with the initial run). But it does go to show: if the music can be almost freely distributed (remember the actual album launch was a cover-mount on The Mail on Sunday), then the artists can make their money by playing great concerts, flogging the hell out of ancillary sales and the odd private appearance at billionaire’s birthday parties.