Why Prince Hated Spotify, YouTube, SoundCloud, Apple Music, Deezer, and Rdio

Prince: Not Available On Spotify
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Prince: Not Available On Spotify
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Prince: Not Available On Spotify

As fans flock to buy, download, and stream Prince’s music, there’s one platform that will be relatively quiet: Spotify.  Step on the biggest streaming music platform in the world, and you’ll find just one Prince track: ‘Stare’.  Nearly one year ago, the pop superstar refused to license his music to Spotify, largely because of its insistence on free access streaming.

But Spotify is hardly alone.  Prince’s ban also included Apple Music, SoundCloud, YouTube, Deezer, and even bankrupted platforms like Rdio.  Some are easier to control than others, but even YouTube is heavily patrolled, with only a smattering of illegal tracks available.

SoundCloud, another content free-for-all, only features tracks from one of Prince’s latest releases, Hit n Run Phase One.

“Prince’s publisher has asked all streaming services to remove his catalog. We have cooperated with the request, and hope to bring his music back as soon as possible.”

Spotify, July, 2015.

The reasons for the boycotts aren’t mysterious.  For starters, Prince was never a fan of cherry-picking, even though consumers overwhelmingly prefer to select and reassemble singles as they please.  Fair enough, though this was one artist that refused to be forced into that consumption habit: “Like books and black lives, albums still matter,” Prince declared during his presentation for Best Album at the Grammy Awards last year.

But the bigger problem is this one: streaming, like many facets of digital and internet music distribution, is failing to pay artists substantially.  That is keeping many of the greats at bay, including living stars like Taylor Swift and Adele.

But the resistance runs even deeper for Prince.  Back in 2010, Prince famously declared that the internet was ‘completely over,’ but a few years later, reframed that comment in compensation terms.  “What I meant was that the Internet was over for anyone who wants to get paid, and I was right about that,” he clarified to the Guardian last year.

But Prince’s legacy is as much artistic as it is activist: wars against Warner Music Group and even his own fan clubs were part of a combative stance that soon spilled into the internet.  Unlike most artists, Prince had the guts to take on YouTube’s exploitative practices towards artists, and quickly became known as an ‘artist not to f–k with’ on the platform (as one top developer once shared with DMN).

Accordingly, classics like ‘Purple Rain’ are extremely difficult to find on YouTube, though Prince’s promised wars never quite materialized.  Back in 2007, the pop superstar vowed lawsuits against the likes of YouTube and eBay, based on their selective content management decisions and copyright safe harbor loop-holing.  “They are clearly able to filter porn and pedophile material, but appear to choose not to filter out the unauthorized music and film content which is core to their business success,” the icon declared to Reuters, while enlisting Web Sheriff in his teardown and legal crusade.

“The problem is that one can reduce it to zero and then the next day there will be 100 or 500 or whatever. This carries on ad nauseam at my expense.”

And so it is with ‘freemium,’ something Spotify refuses to eliminate at the expense of some serious catalog.  That raises the question of why Apple Music doesn’t have much Prince material, given its paid-only approach.  Perhaps Tidal, an artist favorite with reportedly superior royalty payouts, was the only viable choice.

Now, Tidal is enjoying the fruits of their artist-friendly approach with a massive Prince selection.  And as sad as Prince’s death is, it could hand Tidal it’s biggest subscriber surge since its ‘exclusive’ of Kanye’s The Life of Pablo.

29 Responses

  1. Anonymous

    He just said what everybody thinks — I’ve never met one artist who didn’t agree with him.

  2. Anonymous

    Did you see how Google — Prince’s undisputed arch enemy — went purple today to monetize his death?

    • gravyboy

      yep and if google had not honored him…(you know whee this is going, right?)

  3. Remi Swierczek

    Brilliant man!
    Outstanding musician, song writer and savvy businessman.

    Humankind will miss him!

    • Fannie Dixon

      So sad Prince not hear with us anymore.,,,,,love him rest in peace sweet one ☔️?????

  4. Anonymous

    Here’s why takedown needs to be staydown — and why Google is a piracy site:

    We all know what Prince thought of pirates and YouTube, so Google should obviously automatically takedown all new Prince videos, right?

    But pirates not only uploaded tons of Prince videos yesterday — Google also deliberately promotes them today in order to monetize his death:

    Under YouTube’s own Popular Right Now, you can find Prince’s Kiss.

    It got almost one million hits since Google allowed a pirate to uploade it yesterday.

      • No gods or devils involved

        They’re just a bunch of greedy pirates.

      • Remi Swierczek

        …and only solution for screwed up music business!
        I wish Larry Page wouldn’t be such a hypocrite with his MOONSHOT wishes!

        Music is much bigger than his Google. Actually it is bigger than all of the digital advertising but Larry Page HATES music or doesn’t see this MOONSHOT!

    • Lynda Ragland

      Well I for one could of easily put on one of my own Prince CD’s to listen too, but instead I opted to log on to YouTube to search for videos and music to watch and listen. I also logged on to read the comments and offer memories along with his mourning fans. YouTube became our outlet to share our grief. SO LET US LISTEN, SO WE CAN HEAL.

  5. Music lover

    If you’re looking for Prince, click here and you’ll find most every Prince hit playing somewhere on the radio that you can listen to for free: http://OnRad.io/Prince

  6. Truth

    Just face it the days of you lazy bums making millions while snorting cocaine on you sofa are over! Making one album and expecting to sell it for $20 a pop for it’s lifetime is ludacris! Consumers don’t want to pay $20 for a whole entire album when then only want 1 or 2 songs. Get over yourselves. Go touring and earn your money the way the rest of America earns it, by going out and working for it. Prince made like $57 million last year on touring. But what the idiot didn’t realize is that if he allowed all streaming services to stream his music he would’ve had way more fanfare and could’ve double that. Instead his fame died a long time ago, living in the known but no-one cares category until now, his death. How ironic! And you guys support this as business wise. You all are idiots. BTW I pay for my streaming services, and believe artist should be compensated, but if you guys can’t adjust to this new era and how to promote your music and make money then you will all die just like Prince!

    • Yuck Fou

      You’re a fool who will never make anything. I know you’re bitter about being devoid of any talent, but it’s your sad reality. Now, go shoplift some food, and cry to your landlord about how much rent you pay. See ya, generation loser crybaby beggar.

      • Truth

        I’m a single guy in my 30’s living in South Beach, I’m a general manager for a retail store and EARNED $65,000 last. Although I’m not a millionaire, I think I’m doing ok. In about an hour I will hit the sand, get a cold drink and hook up with a chick. What will you be doing? …. ohh and tomorrow I will probably take out my boat

        And as I said I pay for my music, I pay for Spotify, not because I have to but because I believe in supporting artist that support this method of distribution. But for you artist to say you will not support this method of distribution because you can make your money while smoking pot … well guess who’s the one that is coming out as the crybaby and begger …. please pay me full price for music that I made 15 years ago …. waaawaa

    • Carl Bunch

      Prince “made $57M last year touring”, but “his fame died a long time ago, living in the known but no-one cares category until now”. ????

      Pick one, dude, they can’t both be true.

      • Truth

        If you read the rest I went on to say that he would’ve made a lot more if he accepted digital streaming services as a method to distribute his music. Thus gaining popularity, particularly when releasing a new album. And particularly for an artist that hasn’t made a hit single in about 10 years. He should want as many people as possible listening to his music so that when he does tour instead of making $57 million he makes $110 million. It’s just logic, the more people hear your music and like you, the more they are willing to pay to see you perform that music.

        I don’t pay for albums any more, but whenever an artist is in Miami I go see them perform. And I easily spend over $100 to do so.

        • BEN

          Every artist is entitled to do whatever he wants with their art, Truth. Actually everyone is entitled to do anything they please with their own work, and Prince did this because he wanted to. Am I mad at your hitting the sand /riding your boat/ banging your chick while listening to the spotify you paid for with the money you made from working as a general manager in a retail store instead of BEING A GENIUS MUSICIAN WHO CONTRIBUTED SO MUCH TO THIS WORLD, TOOK SH!T FROM NOBODY, AND MANAGED TO STAY TRUE TO HIS OWN IDEOLOGY DURING TIMES WHEN EVERYTHING HAS TO BE IMMEDIATE OR OTHERWISE KIDS LOSE THEIR INTEREST? Nope. I ain’t mad. Nonetheless I gotta tell you: Truth does not only exist in one head (yours or mine), Truth. If you can’t get your head out of your own a$$, at least try stating your opinion like a 30 y.o. man and not a disrespectful post-modern brat. Thanks.

        • jazzman

          yeah, man… you go! Go tell Prince how he should run his business. He really needs posthumous advice from you… I’m sure you;ve bagged at least 5-10 large to date right?

    • Fantasy Clinic

      I have mixed feelings about this in general but to say he made 57 million last year on touring alone yet calling him an idiot for not having MORE fanfare is just…IDIOTIC. BECAUSE Prince knews his worth, he doesn’t need to have his music streamed everywhere, and with him it’s always been about the artistry. As a literally “starving” musician, who’s applying for artist grants to buy instruments and studio time, I don’t think you really have any idea how hard it is to make a quality album if you don’t have the financial resources. After losing my mother to cancer at age 54, I reassessed my life and I gave up a corporate career, 6 figure salary to pursue my dream and although broke, there’s nothing that gives me life more than creating music and if I could make enough money to pay my rent and put food on my table by making music, i’d be the wealthiest man alive in that respect. I will say this though, as someone who actually buys music, especially vinyl…Forbes reported a 30% increase in vinyl sales last year. So more and more people actually do want to spend $20 on a vinyl press, enjoy looking at the sleeve artwork and any music geek will tell you there’s NOTHING like the sound of a vinyl album playing. Touring is actually the only real way for an artist to survive, even if people are buying the music, the percentage that actually makes it to the artist is laughable so I agree with Prince in that respect. However, because Prince has always been so stage-video friendly and as someone who has never actually seen him live, I hate that I can’t look up his videos / concerts and see him perform. It’s not about stealing or pirating, it’s about wanting to experience an artist as closely as possible to the live experience.

      • Pepe Le Pew

        @fantasy clinic

        Agree with you. Youtube for example, has pretty poor quality when converting. If I want a decent copy, il buy a cd…but Im old skool, and nothing comes close to vinyl. I cant understand his anti youtube stance….a lot of us cant afford cds, and watching a video, is hardly pirating. He was a bit too, to use an english term “up himself” in that regard.

        Id suggest watching “Vinyl” . really enjoyed it….its on a pirate site http://stream-tv2.ag/

        Good luck with your music career. Big props for checking out of the rat race to pursue your dream.

    • Reaper

      Actually, we will all die. Just like Prince. And in a thousand years who will remember much of anything.

      That’s the truth, Truth.

  7. AlexKx

    That’s not so! People can sell their product for as expensive as they want YOU don’t have any right to steal it or anyone else LOSER! Being fascist and telling people that they can only make money one way or the other does not help or work either. Just because you are “compensating” an artist does not equate to them being paid fair or what they ask for. Making threats as to how people should run their business does not equate to “the future”. Otherwise we call it mob behavior, bullying, stealing, and extortion.

    • Truth

      People can try to sell anything they want for any price they want, doesn’t mean that people will buy it. Its the law of economics and the law of supply and demand. And streaming services is not just the way of the future but the way of the here and now. In today’s economy the only way to make money in music is to distribute to as many people as you can and if you do good music and they like it, people will pay to see you perform.

      • blastjacket

        You really should get out of retail and go to work in the music business. You’d be so great at it with your views.

      • Versus

        Law of supply and demand only works properly and can be ethically justified in a fair market with legal enforcement against theft, piracy, counterfeiting, and other forms of unethical and/or illegal exploitation.

        If piracy were really controlled, then music would find its “level”, probably somewhere between the golden age of the album pricing and the near-zero value of today.

  8. Versus

    Prince was right. Why aren’t other artists with influence, and creators in other fields, like film and book publishing, fighting the same fight together?

    United we stand, divided we fall.