Prince — pop music’s most intriguing and perhaps most multitalented man — told a select group of reporters gathered at his Minneapolis studio complex that record contracts are just like “slavery.” Nothing new there — this is a guy who once changed his name to a symbol to protest his record company’s stake in his moniker and who performed with the word “slave” painted on his cheek.
So what’s new? The solution, according to Prince — which comes in the form of Jay Z’s beleaguered streaming service Tidal. Prince’s beef with record labels is now primarily based on how they negotiate what he sees as paltry fees for streaming rights. Streaming didn’t exist when Prince first classified himself a slave. And neither did Tidal, a streaming service that proposes to let artists keep more of their money than Spotify and other competitors. Tidal, in Prince’s view, is an emancipation proclamation for artists — a digital abolitionist. By most reports, Tidal is off to a rocky start without a groundswell of users. Prince’s private meeting with reporters is meant to give it a push.