2001 – Prince launches a subscription service wher…on February 14th, 2001 at 12:30 pm
2001 – Prince launches internet-based subscription service NPGMusicClub. A subscription service whereby fans are asked to pay as much as $100 per year.
Born and raised in Minneapolis, Prince Rogers Nelson received his name from his father, jazz musician John Nelson, who was a performer in the Prince Rogers Trio. In constrast to the privileged status implied by such a name, the young Prince was saddled with a run-of-the-mill crappy childhood, and after his parents’ divorce he left home to escape a combative relationship with his stepfather. During a brief period where he once again lived with his father, he was given his first guitar, initiating an enduring interest in composition and performance; the remainder of his childhood was spent living with one of the married couples in his neighborhood, and it was with their son, André Anderson, that Prince formed his first band Grand Central. The outfit — which also included Prince’s cousin Charles Smith, friend Morris Day and André’s sister Linda — received some musical tutoring from Pepé Willie, a musician married to one of Prince’s older cousins who would later provide both Prince and André with their first recording opportunities as session players for the band 94 East. By their high school years the members of Grand Central had re-invented themselves as Champagne, switching their focus from covers to self-written material. Despite some success as a live act in the Minneapolis area, Champagne would dissolve before any recordings were made.
At the age of 18, Prince put together a collection of demo tracks with the help of producer Chris Moon, and with these high-quality recordings and some further help from manager Owen Husney he secured a contract with the monstrous, inhuman parasite that is Warner Brothers Records. The debut release For You (1978) materialized not long afterwards, the bulk of its material having been composed and realized by the young performer on his own. This first offering was given only a lukewarm reception, although the not-at-all-suggestively-titled single Soft and Wet managed to make a reasonable showing in the R&B charts. An eponymous release the following year did somewhat better, launching two singles Why You Wanna Treat Me So Bad? and I Wanna Be Your Lover into the R&B and dance charts. By his third album, Dirty Mind (1980), the musician had fully consolidated a reputation for controversial (i.e. sexually explicit) material — a reputation first established in his raunchy stage shows. The album also initiated a trend of strong critical support in response to the varied and ambitious nature of the arrangements.
In 1981 the flamboyant performer managed to expand his reputation overseas and make his first venture to the top of the (dance) charts through the release of his fourth album (and its title single) Controversy. The beginning of his career as a producer for other artists was also initiated a this time, taking the form of sessions he helmed for his former bandmate Morris Day’s new ensemble The Time; in the decades to come Prince would expand this role with a series of “protégé” subjects, including Vanity, Apollonia, The Family, and Sheila E. The most dramatic shift in his fortunes, however, took place late in 1982 after the release of the single 1999, the first of his songs to attract the attention of the mainstream, MTV-watching, pop music audience. The album of the same name (featuring his new backing band The Revolution) achieved triple platinum status soon after its release, and launched two more singles — Little Red Corvette and Delirious — high into the pop charts. This new-found commercial popularity was given significant reinforcement by his next project, the feature film/soundtrack album Purple Rain (1984), which was a huge success in both formats; it also served to maintain his “controversial” status among censorship groups and religious fanatics. It was the album’s track Darling Nikki and its horrendous (!!!) reference to the degraded, deviant practice of masturbation that would later single-handedly inspire über-prude (and Washington wife) Tipper Gore to form the religious-right censorship organization the Parents Music Resource Center (PMRC).
Prince continued to have his kinky way with the charts throughout the remainder of the 1980s, following up Purple Rain with the popular releases Around The World In A Day (1985), Parade (1986) (featuring the #1 single Kiss), Sign O’ The Times (1987), Lovesexy (1988) and Batman (1989) (associated with Tim Burton’s superhero film of the same name). His subsequent film ventures did not fare nearly as well, however, and his second feature Under The Cherry Moon (1986) achieved only a fraction of the success given to its soundtrack album Parade. This outcome was repeated yet again with his third film, a sequel to Purple Rain titled Graffiti Bridge (1990). Around the release of 1987′s Sign O’ The Times, Prince launched Paisley Park Studios, an elaborate complex that would serve as the home for all of his later recording and film work.
With the arrival of the 1990s Prince assembled a new backing band, which he dubbed The New Power Generation. The recording debut of this line-up was made through the 1991 release Diamonds And Pearls, its first two singles Cream and Gett Off finding their way to the top of the pop and dance charts, respectively. The following year found him collaborating with Kate Bush, another idiosyncratic performer who maintained a similarly scrupulous control over every aspect of her output, both inside and outside of the recording studio. The collaboration resulted in the track Why Should I Love You, and was featured on the Kate Bush release The Red Shoes (1992); Bush would later contribute her vocals to the Prince track My Computer, which surfaced four years later on his album Emancipation (1996). In a move that strained his credibility with critics and fans alike, the performer subsequently changed his name to a stylized icon that combined the symbols used to represent male and female — an icon with no verbal equivalent, forcing music writers to resort to ridiculous phrases such as “The Artist Formerly Known as Prince”. His 1993 effort was also given this icon as a title, although it has since come to be referred to as “The Love Symbol Album”.
As declining sales greeted early 90s albums that included a greatest hits collection, an official release of The Black Album (completed in 1987 and previously available only as a bootleg), and the new album Come (1994), a conflict arose between Prince and Warner Brothers concerning control of his extensive back catalog. Two more albums, The Gold Experience (1995) and Chaos and Disorder (1996) were delivered to the label to fulfill the terms of his contract, after which he issued the sprawling 3 CD collection Emancipation (1996) through his own NPG imprint. None of these releases managed to restore the enormous mainstream popularity of his earlier output, but, as is frequently the case with established performers that persevere over multiple decades, a dedicated fanbase continued to ensure a substantial amount of commercial success. Another extensive collection, the 4 CD archival set Crystal Ball, appeared in 1997, and the two albums Newpower Soul (1998) and Rave Un 2 The Joy Fantastic (1999) closed out an incontinently prolific decade.
With the arrival of the 00s and the end of his publishing contract with Warner, Prince dropped his “symbol” and resumed use of his birth name. In the new decade he also adjusted the focus of his output away from the mainstream and concentrated instead on the core fans that continued to support him, creating the internet-based subscription service NPGMusicClub. The 2001 release The Rainbow Children (celebrating his conversion to the Jehovah’s Witnesses) was first made available through this service, as were the albums One Nite Alone (2002), Xpectation (2003), N.E.W.S. (2003), The Chocolate Invasion (2004) and The Slaughterhouse (2004). Added to this flurry was the conventionally-released effort Musicology (2004), issued under license to another corporate bloodsucker, Sony Music. A high-profile collaboration with Stevie Wonder on his “comeback” single So What The Fuss followed in 2005.