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Thread started 03/31/04 8:50am

brentshiely

Baby, I'm a Star, Again - How a Seeming Has-Been Spent Months Preparing To Reclaim the Center Stage

By ETHAN SMITH
Staff Reporter of THE WALL STREET JOURNAL
March 31, 2004; Page B1

http://online.wsj.com/art...focus%5Fhs

After years of working on the margins of the entertainment business, pop star Prince is riding a surprise resurgence. But while his comeback seems sudden, it was hardly spontaneous.

The music legend, who burst on the scene in 1978 and dropped off the charts more than 15 years later, has spent months preparing to reclaim center stage. On Monday, he played at Los Angeles's Staples Center to a record-breaking crowd for the arena, more than 19,000 people.

Other major arenas in his 63-city tour are selling out coast to coast. "Musicology," his first major-label release since 1999, is due out on April 20 through Sony Corp.'s Columbia Records. Cable music-channel VH1 begins playing the music video this week. He gave televised show-opening performances at last month's Grammy Awards and earlier this month at the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame dinner, where he also was one of seven inductees.

Yet as recently as December, the 45-year-old Prince looked like a has-been. He'd also become the object of curiosity, if not outright ridicule, thanks in part to stunts like his 1993 decision to change his name to an unpronounceable symbol. People resorted to calling him "The Artist Formerly Known as Prince" for want of another name, sealing his reputation for being erratic.

But it was his years battling his former record label, Warner Bros., that took its greatest toll on Prince's stature and record sales. He was furious that the company, following standard industry practice, refused to cede ownership of the master recordings for his albums going back to 1978. He, and people around him also felt the label, owned by the now privately held Warner Music Group, hadn't devoted enough attention to marketing his older work.

Warner Bros. says the label would need more cooperation from Prince to undertake a stronger marketing effort, adding that the label would be "pleased to work closely with him."

After calling it quits with Warner in 1996, the musician, who changed his name back to Prince four years ago, bounced from label to label. Eventually he settled for releasing his albums himself, including through his Web site, named after his band, the New Power Generation. The NPG Music Club site doesn't release sales figures, but industry experts estimate his album sales were nowhere near what they could have been with the backing of a high-powered record company.

Despite his reputation for being difficult, the former Prince Rogers Nelson of Minneapolis is widely recognized by music critics as a genre-busting, if temperamental, genius. He also was known for pushing musical boundaries as regularly as he pushed the buttons of music-industry executives.

His very public dispute with Warner Bros. -- he has scrawled "SLAVE" on his face to protest the company's dealings with him -- won him no fans in record-industry boardrooms. After years of clashing with the music establishment, Prince ended up isolated by mainstream media: He has sold his work -- all but absent from radio stations, MTV or other outlets -- through the Internet and his own music label.

Critics who long praised Prince's prodigious talent, also seemed to have turned on him. His 2003 self-released CD "N.E.W.S." was largely ignored by critics. Among the few American publications that reviewed the title, the Onion, a satirical magazine and Web site, in its arts reviews derided "N.E.W.S." as the "least-essential album of 2003." According to Nielsen SoundScan, the disc has sold just 20,000 copies since its release in June.

Eric Leeds, a saxophone player on Prince's last tour, told an interviewer for the Minneapolis Star-Tribune that Prince had come to accept "that he's not going to be selling 15,000-seat arenas anymore."

But that's exactly what Prince is now doing. How did this seemingly sudden reversal of fortune take place?

A comeback like this "doesn't just happen," says Ronnie Lippin, a veteran music publicist whom Prince hired in September, when he was first laying the groundwork. Prince decided he had to be more flexible with the industry if he was going to reach his audience. Getting back on the mainstream radar required some aggressive moves. "It is far from a casual process, and Prince is the primary force driving everything," Mr. Lippin says.

Some of the steps Prince took were subtle but effective, such as climbing onstage to play guitar on an impromptu, midnight rendition of his 1986 hit "Kiss" at a January Golden Globes after-party at the Beverly Hilton.

Before securing his new record deal with Columbia, Prince is said to have met with several record executives to discuss signing with them. Among the high-profile executives he talked with: Bruce Lundvall, who as head of Blue Note records, owned by EMI Group PLC, has played a key role in Norah Jones's stunning success. And Prince has gotten his face back into American living rooms by having his publicist book him on television programs from PBS's "Tavis Smiley Show" to "The Tonight Show."

Although Prince is clearly more willing to cooperate with the industry than in the past, he hasn't given up his quirky ways. When Ken Ehrlich, producer of the Grammys telecast, wanted to invite Prince to perform a duet with pop-star Beyoncé, Mr. Ehrlich wasn't told to call a manager (Prince doesn't have one), but a guitar technician named Takumi Suetsugu. Mr. Ehrlich says Prince had declined several previous invitations to play at the Grammys, but this time "he was ready for a major return to the scene."

What's more, Prince wanted to ensure his appearance made a splash. "He had only one condition," Mr. Ehrlich says. "That he open the show."

That performance, a medley of hits by Prince and Beyoncé, garnered critical raves and stoked public anticipation for his concerts. Further heightening the buzz for his tour, Prince has said he will perform old favorites for the last time -- a smart marketing ploy that has helped him nearly sell out six arena shows in the New York City area, and five in the Los Angeles area.

Prince's rapid rise, fall and rise again is a testimony to his stature as a creative powerhouse. He was inducted to the hall the very first year he was eligible under the Hall of Fame's rules. Nominating-committee member Bob Merlis calls Prince "as close to a slam-dunk as there is."

Meanwhile, although Prince still feels angry with Warner Bros., he has since softened in his dispute with the label. His longtime lawyer L. Londell McMillan says the singer is no longer seeking outright ownership of the masters -- just more control and more generous financial terms.

Production, distribution and marketing of Prince's coming CD is in Columbia's hands, but Prince is reserving the online sales for his own Web site. There his fans will be able to download the collection for $9.99 beginning Monday. The CD carries a suggested retail price of $18.98.

It remains to be seen how successful Prince's comeback will be. But one executive thinks he's making the right moves. "The timing feels right," says Rick Krim, VH1's executive vice president for music and talent, viewing a copy of the "Musicology" video.
"He was away long enough," Mr. Krim says.
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Reply #1 posted 03/31/04 11:22am

amyhr

brentshiely said:


Meanwhile, although Prince still feels angry with Warner Bros., he has since softened in his dispute with the label. His longtime lawyer L. Londell McMillan says the singer is no longer seeking outright ownership of the masters -- just more control and more generous financial terms.




Sounds like we could actually get those remasters we've been waiting for...
-->> This Space 4 Rent <<--
mac mac mac mac mac mac mac mac mac
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Reply #2 posted 03/31/04 11:53am

JediMaster

avatar

amyhr said:

brentshiely said:


Meanwhile, although Prince still feels angry with Warner Bros., he has since softened in his dispute with the label. His longtime lawyer L. Londell McMillan says the singer is no longer seeking outright ownership of the masters -- just more control and more generous financial terms.




Sounds like we could actually get those remasters we've been waiting for...


Fingers crossed...
jedi

Do not hurry yourself in your spirit to become offended, for the taking of offense is what rests in the bosom of the stupid ones. (Ecclesiastes 7:9)
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Reply #3 posted 03/31/04 12:29pm

lovemachine

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brentshiely said:

When Ken Ehrlich, producer of the Grammys telecast, wanted to invite Prince to perform a duet with pop-star Beyoncé, Mr. Ehrlich wasn't told to call a manager (Prince doesn't have one), but a guitar technician named Takumi Suetsugu. ."



Now that's funny.
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Reply #4 posted 03/31/04 3:04pm

bkw

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This is a very interesting article in more ways than one. biggrin
When I read about the evils of drinking, I gave up reading.
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Reply #5 posted 03/31/04 3:06pm

SENSHY

Prince-100 biggrin

Dumb Muthafuckas-zero
Oh my, oh my.
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Reply #6 posted 03/31/04 3:15pm

skywalker

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have a problem with the term "has-been". I understand that Prince has been off of the mainstream radar, but from 1994 to 2003 he was still tearin' shit up just like he is now. Just because you didn't see a shooting star doesn't mean there wasn't one in the sky. Just because you weren't interested in Prince before the media wanted you to be doesn't mean he wasn't their funkin' along and singing his song the whole time.
"New Power slide...."
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Reply #7 posted 03/31/04 4:28pm

Jarret

skywalker said:

have a problem with the term "has-been". I understand that Prince has been off of the mainstream radar, but from 1994 to 2003 he was still tearin' shit up just like he is now. Just because you didn't see a shooting star doesn't mean there wasn't one in the sky. Just because you weren't interested in Prince before the media wanted you to be doesn't mean he wasn't their funkin' along and singing his song the whole time.


I guess that's why they used the phrase "seeming has-been", huh?

.
[This message was edited Wed Mar 31 16:30:51 2004 by Jarret]
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Reply #8 posted 03/31/04 5:25pm

skywalker

avatar

Jarret said:

skywalker said:

have a problem with the term "has-been". I understand that Prince has been off of the mainstream radar, but from 1994 to 2003 he was still tearin' shit up just like he is now. Just because you didn't see a shooting star doesn't mean there wasn't one in the sky. Just because you weren't interested in Prince before the media wanted you to be doesn't mean he wasn't their funkin' along and singing his song the whole time.


I guess that's why they used the phrase "seeming has-been", huh?

.
[This message was edited Wed Mar 31 16:30:51 2004 by Jarret]



That's what I am saying. The only people he seemed like a has been to were the ones not paying attention to what he was doing because he was so far outside of and beyond what the mass media can digest.
"New Power slide...."
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Reply #9 posted 03/31/04 5:41pm

MoneyMade

skywalker said:

Jarret said:



I guess that's why they used the phrase "seeming has-been", huh?

.
[This message was edited Wed Mar 31 16:30:51 2004 by Jarret]



That's what I am saying. The only people he seemed like a has been to were the ones not paying attention to what he was doing because he was so far outside of and beyond what the mass media can digest.




He's always been a whore so why stop now....lol
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Reply #10 posted 04/01/04 6:45am

KIDEROTICA

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WHAT NON- BELIEVERS DONT KNOW IS THAT PRINCE HAS NEVER FALLEN FROM GRACE
WE REAL FANS KNOW HE WANTED THINGS 2 BE ON HIS TERMS AND PEOPLE TRIED 2 CONTROL A PRINCE WHEN U CANT .

REMEMBER LIFE IS DEATH WITHOUT ADVENTURE!!!

PEACE AND BE WILD!!!

ALL MEDIA NEED 2 FIND FACTS AND SAY THE TRUTH NOT BULSHIT HA HA HA HA HA HA HA
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Reply #11 posted 04/01/04 7:02am

adorable2

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i'm serious it is so strange for me to read and swallow "total outsiders" describing the "rise and fall and rise" of Prince. If he fell than I am totally oblivious to it. I am not just saying that because I am a fan/fam. I mean seriously to me, Prince could never fall because I am a true lover of music not commercialism and music videos and awards. Prince falling how preposterous is that? wacky
I'm an org elitist... totally unapproachable.

www.myspace.com/prinsexed
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