Music icon Prince is worried about the future of the music business for artists, and his top priority can be summed up in one word: Freedom.
“Record contracts are just like — I’m gonna say the word – slavery,” Prince told a group of 10 journalists Saturday night, during a meet and greet at his Paisley Park Studios in Minneapolis. “I would tell any young artist … don’t sign.”
His pitch to the group was simple: Typical record company contracts turn artists into indentured servants with little control over how their music is used, particularly when it comes to revenue from streaming services playing their music online — and he wants to change that.
Cellphones and recording devices were banned for everyone at Paisley Park — as was any kind of alcohol — so no photos or audio of his words were recorded.
Sitting at the head of a glass table emblazoned with his trademark image combining the astrological symbols for male and female, Prince wanted to talk up his new alliance with Jay Z and the rap star’s new music streaming service, Tidal.
He talked about how his deal with Jay Z still gave him the freedom to collaborate with other artists on songs which might appear elsewhere, stressing the importance of artists controlling as much of the revenue from their work as possible.
“Once we have our own resources, we can provide what we need for ourselves,” he said. “Jay Z spent $100 million of his own money to build his own service. We have to show support for artists who are trying to own things for themselves.”
He advocated seeing artists paid directly from streaming services for use of their music, so that record companies and middlemen couldn’t take a share. He also criticized radio giant Clear Channel, saying its dominance of the radio industry homogenized stations across the country.
Asked how he would get his message out, Prince chuckled and looked at the group crowded around his conference table. “That’s why you’re here,” he laughed.