Monday, July 12, 2010

The Occasional Rant:
Sorry, Prince. The Internet is All Over.

Adapt or die. Go with the flow. Sink or swim.

These are some of the examples explaining the basic tenets of evolution.

When I first got online way back in the early 90s, I was convinced that this invention was going to be big. As early as 1986, I had a feeling that eventually everything that we need for communication and entertainment will be reduced to 1 box, 1 screen, 1 user.

I'm quite sure that everyone would want to have this 1 box to talk to others, order some chow mein, take in a concert or a movie, get an education and simply frag some poor sucker to kingdom come in WOW.

Not to mention having a box to groove to some tunes.

So I am quite surprised that Prince (the artist formally known as Prince Rogers Nelson) would reject the internet that he once embraced as a medium for his insane creativity.

In an "exclusive" interview by Mirror journo Peter Miller, Prince proclaimed...
"The internet's completely over. I don't see why I should give my new music to iTunes or anyone else. They won't pay me an advance for it and then they get angry when they can't get it.
"The internet's like MTV. At one time MTV was hip and suddenly it became outdated. Anyway, all these computers and digital gadgets are no good.
"They just fill your head with numbers and that can't be good for you."
The Mirror article was mainly about Prince's upcoming release "20TEN", his views on his current life and his eccentric creative processes, but it was this one quote that caused this storm of controversy throughout the web and the traditional media - you do remember newspapers, tv and radio, right?

Whether Price had a point or was simply shooting from the lip at the time is irrelevant. What started me to think was the revolution that started at around the same time I discovered the internet.

This revolution is called streaming media.

To reiterate the basics of the internet, information in forms of pictures and words get broken down to bits - ones and zeroes - then get reconstituted at the end-user's machine of choice. Back in the 80s, the compact disk format was starting to take off, and my assumption at that time was that sooner or later television, radio and stand-alone music players would be rendered redundant, if not obsolete, by this new medium. All this thanks to a roomie's Commodore 64.

Fast-forward to the here-and-now and we see iTunes, Hulu and YouTube getting into the public consciousness. We have media players such as the granddaddies of them all, RealPlayer and Quicktime, and it's bastard offspring Winamp, Windows Media Player and the iTunes player. Kids - and adults run amok with their iPads and its rivals and variants. And don't get me started with the iPhone, the iPad, smartphones, laptops and netbooks. I suspect that my vision is slowly coming true, that for some reason the proliferation of the web into the public consciousness is starting to worry Prince.

Understandably so, since the availability of more bandwidth, affordable computers and more user-friendly software and hardware has made the once wild, wild web into something more mundane, more accessible, more democratised.

We've seen various iterations of peer-to-peer file-sharing software come and gone: Napster, Gnutella, LimeWire, Kazaa, BitTorrent, etc. The traditional media, stuck in the quagmire of their own paradigms, struggle to comprehend why they are losing their shirts while at the same time working to apprehend, stifle and even eliminate what they see as the threat to their survival and relevance. Metallica's Lars Ulrich may have crippled Napster, but those who have the access to better bandwidth and software will always barter files ripped from the medium that was legally bought, And the video streaming sites that started up as simple entities have become monsters.

We the masses have the capability to share ideas with a larger audience, Social networking sites have forced the world to shrink. Independent, unsigned artists now have an audience of millions to receive the fruits of their labours, whether in form of movies or music. If you want the news that fit your views, there's bound to be a site somewhere. People are making the web into the image that they want to see in any way necessary, at any time as required, even if it means writing silly blog posts or doing the Numa Numa tune to death.

And then there's Prince.

With all respect to someone who has proven himself to be prolific, rebellious, talented and so prosperous that he could write his own paycheques, Prince may have been felling a little threatened by the scores of upstarts taking advantage of the web's democratisation. Maybe he's become aware that all that technology that was once solely belonged to studios like Paramount, MGM, Abbey Road and Paisley Park have now fallen into the hands of the great unwashed proletariat determined to unseat the aristocracy of the Old Guard from their collective throne. The monoliths and conglomerates are no longer alone as content providers: those of us with talent, tool and bandwidth have hopped into their electronic, digitised hot-tub.

So what is left for the Purple Prince to do to be considered a revolutionary, an iconoclast, an individual?

He simply shut down all his websites, packed up his bags and started to give away his new cd for free. Through the Mirror, no less.

Back to basics. Back to the streets. Back to plastic hardcopy. Whatever floats the Purple boat is fine. He has already made his mark, regardless of medium and is entitled to his opinions and work ethic. Blood sweat and tears indeed.

And life goes on.

For Prince, the internet may be over. For many, it's here to stay.

For me, it's just evolution.

Go with the flow.