Photo and article courtesy of “No-Named Reporter.” Introduction by G.
It’s frustrating being a Prince fan these days. He sues his die-hard fans; he’s trying to erase his existence from the internet by sending cease and desist orders to anyone who posts videos of him online; his music, which once was a powerhouse has now become a watered down version of himself trying (not very successfully) to sound like “the old Prince” and now just to toy with his fans a little more, he’s back to announcing last minute gigs (that typically cost in excess of $200 a ticket) and has introduced a brand new annoying tactic: one-off webcasts that can only be seen if you just happen to be in front of a computer in the middle of the night. For someone trying to gain new fans or cement a dwindling fan base, this hardly seems like the right way to go about it. Let’s face it – we used to live in the “new power generation” but now we live in the “2 second attention span generation” and when someone who wasn’t born when many of Prince’s classic moments happened, how are they going to discover them (and tell the masses) when they are not available to be seen?! Of course, seeing a video on Youtube on demand is hardly as satisfying as waiting for MTV or the radio to play the song (just as mp3s and streaming audio are sub-par to vinyl), but to quote Prince himself, this is a “Sign O’ The Times.” At the very least, he should realize that all of his greatest hits no longer belong to him, but they are now classic songs of the world that will stand the test of time – that is, if they are allowed to be heard. One thing that will not change with technological advances is that when you discover something great, you want MORE!
I won’t lie and try and make out like I haven’t been a vocal critic of many of the above actions. My criticism comes from hundreds of in person Prince experiences and not of merely jumping on a hate bandwagon. I’ve been a die-hard Prince fan since the 1981 album “Controversy” was released and I’ve been there for career highs and career lows. I’ve heard way too many unflattering stories from many of his former associates and I’ve even gotten into a debate over religion with the man himself at Paisley Park. He was unwilling to listen to my opinions on religion and philosophy, which I find extremely disappointing as I have a bookshelf filled with texts that I have read and practiced, so in this case, I know what I am talking about. (Side note: if you want to talk about this or any of these topics Prince, I am here for you!) It seems to be a symptom of the Jehovah’s Witness-era of Prince – he claims to be surrounding himself with younger people to obtain fresh ideas, but is he just telling these people what to do knowing they have no business contradicting a living legend? I have been left with no choice but to separate the man from the music and an attempt to try and remember the “good times” through his fans, which brings me to what you are about to read.
One of his fans (possibly on the inside of the ‘Purple Circle’) is feeling the frustration instead of feeling the funk and wanted to get this message out. I did not write it, but I found it amusing because I’ve lived these types of scenarios so many times and have been harshly criticized for voicing my opinions. If you are also a die-hard, you probably have some of the same battle scars as I do. What you choose to do with this article is up 2 U (as they say). Full disclosure – since I am fortunate enough to see hundreds of live shows by emerging bands each year, frankly, I have had enough with this type of behavior because the reward is not what it once was to me. Maybe, just maybe, these words will reach the man and he will make a return the excellence he is more than capable of making. We’ve spent decades listening to him. Maybe now, he will listen to us! This an xtended jam, so light some incense and candles and read on… after the jump.
Love, G xx
The following text was sent in by a “No-Named Reporter”:
On the night of June 19, 2013, long time Prince supporter, blogger and source of recent Prince news, Dr. Funkenberry tweeted out a link to a 3rdEyeGirl TV Livestream channel, telling followers to tune in for a special surprise from Paisley Park, Prince’s massive studio in a suburb of Chanhassen, just outside Minneapolis. This was titillating to fans – Prince never does live, impromptu video. OMG, where do I click?!?!
Those who were able to tune in were rewarded with a live rehearsal of “Glamorous Life” (instrumental) by Prince’s current band, which includes the 3rdeyegirl members (Hannah Ford on drums, Donna Grantis on guitar and Ida Nilsen on bass. Prince handles guitar, keys and lead vocals) and what looked like half a dozen horn players. The camera shot was far and wide from the stage, and the band played for about 3 minutes before the broadcast was cut off.
Prince fans were abuzz on social media afterwards. Those that missed it lamented the short notice, while those that did catch it ooh’d and aah’d over the spontaneous performance from Paisley Park. Prince was nowhere to be seen or heard from during the broadcast, but it was exciting enough to fans just to know they were getting unparalleled access to Paisley Park. Would Prince allow this to happen again? What else would they see?
Subscribers to the 3rdEyeGirl TV Livestream channel grew exponentially overnight, with fans logging on to follow the channel, and making sure they were set up to be emailed or texted anytime the channel went live. And with Prince that could be ANYTIME.
The next night, fans were summoned to another live event, this time with 3rdEyeGirl jamming in the studio on Prince’s classic “Let’s Work” from his 1982 album “Controversy”. Nilsen’s bass and Grantis’ guitar were thrust into the camera lens while the women worked over the song. The broadcast then switched into more of a radio mode, with a Paisley Park remix of Janelle Monae and Erykah Badu’s song “Q.U.E.E.N.” (supposedly mixed by Josh Welton, the husband of 3rdEyeGirl drummer Hannah Ford), as well as a couple of live recordings from Prince’s 2009 concert at the Montreaux Jazz Festival.
Fans were once again drooling all over their screens, waiting for more, and discussing what might come next. The chat room was barely legible as comments flew at a mind-numbing speed. They could hardly believe their luck. As word spread, even more subscribed to the Livestream channel and waited with bated breath for the next hit.
At about 1:30am Minneapolis time on Saturday night (Sunday morning), we got a text alerting us that 3rdEyeGirl TV was broadcasting. Probably like many Prince fans, I was in bed and the SMS alert woke me up – I felt like a purple Pavlov’s dog. But the fact that it came in the middle of the night made it even more intriguing. What was Prince up to at 1:30 in the morning? We’ve all heard that he never sleeps – now we would be able to witness it?
But then Prince got cocky, or decided it was time to see how far he could really push his fans.
I pulled up the stream and saw what looked like a still shot of a mixing board in a studio. No sound. Only the flickering of the nearby candle on the screen confirmed that this was actually a video broadcast.
On occasion, random objects would pop onto the screen, including a sock puppet with black-rimmed glasses on. Then a laptop was laid down in the studio and the camera changed position slightly to focus on the screen. Still no sound or action of any kind. A stick of incense was lit on screen and left to burn down. Am I supposed to stay awake for this? 47 minutes later (which felt like 407 minutes of watching grass grow), after the incense finally burned down, we got our first audio. A rehearsal of “Sticky Like Glue” from Prince’s album 20Ten album was played, which by the way has never been released here in the U.S. It was a long, funky rehearsal jam, full of Prince’s comments and band direction – the kind of stuff that a hardcore fan dreams of hearing, let alone witnessing. Still, this was just audio, playing in front of an indecipherable image on an Apple laptop screen.
From there we were treated to more audio, including a recent single Prince released on 3rdeyegirl.com called “Breakfast Can Wait”, and even a little bit of video of “Play That Funky Music (White Boy)” from Prince’s Welcome 2 Australia tour. The stream concluded with Prince’s “Goodbye” from his 1999 three-disc tome “Crystal Ball”. This was beginning to feel like the NPG Ahdio mixes we got from Prince’s fan club – back in 2002.
My reaction? While I was excited to be a part of a live event being broadcast from Paisley, I also felt bamboozled/hoodwinked/took that I actually stared at a screen for 47 minutes, waiting for it. When I woke up bleary-eyed the next morning with a purple hangover, it wasn’t with thoughts of how cool I was, but rather with thoughts of “Was that really worth it? Was Prince laughing at me?”
Prince fans are notoriously loyal, and most would say that what Prince is doing is “revolutionary” and “innovative”. But in reality, it’s not. And further, he’s not really making great use of the technology – and it’s due to his control freak nature.
You see Prince hates when his music gets recorded, or bootlegged, and disseminated without his control. Most artists do, but Prince has a career-long hate-affair with it. On the one hand he loves how fans clamor for any bit of audio or video they can get their hands on. But it galls him that what they get is not always perfect, or with his permission.
The irony is that there are tools out there to capture what happens during these Livestream broadcasts – as soon as they’re over, Prince fans are swapping the tracks and video from it, which is a blessing, because so many fans miss out.
This new livestream channel probably seems like a great solution to Prince. Fans can only consume his content when HE wants them to, and there is no archive of the broadcasts (by his choice). And it fits in with great his air of mystery –“You just never know what Prince is going to do!” So if you miss it, you miss it –you didn’t work hard enough. But if you are diligent and follow obsessively, you are rewarded, and you should feel special.
I say “should feel special” because with every subsequent broadcast since that Saturday night, Prince has gotten more and more sadistic with the channel. I use sadistic in its purest sense: deriving pleasure from extreme cruelty. On Sunday night, a man (Josh Welton again?) had his back to the camera with the words “Stay Wit It” emblazoned on his back – almost mocking and taunting fans to go the distance.
Then on Wednesday night, the channel was “live” for 3 hours – and they only played 3 songs. 15 minutes of audio in 3 hours. Sound painful? It was. To kill the time, fans were in the adjoining chat room, waiting for their next fix and Prince’s next move.
But fan patience is starting to wane. During Wednesday night’s broadcast, the 3rdEyeGirl TV audience swelled to 500 concurrent viewers, but then dropped to as low as 150 because NOTHING WAS HAPPENING.
There’s a social contract here that Prince is ignoring – if you’re going to ask your fans to drop everything and tune into your live broadcast, then you have to actually DO something on it. Keep in mind that Prince himself has never appeared on camera during these broadcasts. But then again he named the channel after his band, not himself. So that’s an easy out for him. And his fans are extremely forgiving, and will ingratiate themselves to his band members to show they are loyal to all things purple. Don’t get me wrong – his band is kickass. I saw them perform on the Live Out Loud tour – they blew my ear drums and my mind. They are really talented and deserve to be watched and celebrated. I just wish that Prince didn’t use them as his marketing toys – it diminishes their talent.
Usually these types of events can be great for attracting new fans to your music. Bands will give notice and then webcast a short performance or even a full concert, which as word spreads through social media, can pull in even the most casual fans because it’s unique, and they’re curious. But Prince isn’t even doing that. As a result, these broadcasts are only pulling in his most hardcore fans.Who really would tune in to watch paint dry – if they knew it was on the walls of a Paisley studio.
To add possible insult to 3 hours of barely-any-music injury on Wednesday night, Prince also had a representative from his camp in the fan chat room, making what we hope are not idle promises about tour dates. They discussed a possible trip to Chi-town over this coming weekend, then maybe dates in NYC, and even told an Australian fan “Australia will be when it is Winter in Minneapolis. Australian Dates, it is.”
Was Prince actually the one typing? Probably not – the usual Princebonics were not in full effect as in “Australia will b…”. But it’s safe to say that he was probably leaning over the shoulder of whoever was at the keyboard, dictating their responses. He’s got mad control like that.
Whether Prince will make good on his tour teases remains to be seen. His 3rdeyegirl.com site got a makeover today which is a good sign – it now includes a tour section that spans July and August – but no dates in there yet. The only confirmed dates we know of are his four, already-sold-out shows at the Montreux Jazz Festival July 13-15.
What I do know is that Prince needs to make better use of his latest technology experiment, and not abuse his fans’ goodwill and willingness to come along for the ride. Don’t be so shy (shady?), Prince. Think back to your Webster Hall performance in 2004 and just get on a stool and PLAY us something. You are the one we want to see and hear – even if it does mean waking up in the middle of the night.
– A No Name Reporter