Who Needs Fans Anyway?

Prince, the Artist-Formerly-Known-As-Someone-With-A-Label-Willing-To-Distribute-His-Albums-In-The-UK seems to believe he doesn’t need his fans. He has threatened to sue many of his most ardent fans for, among other things, breach of copyright for use of images of him. Fan sites have been issued legal notices to remove “anything linked to Prince’s likeness”. This includes photos of the pint sized singer but reportedly also fans’ own photos of their own tattoos of Prince’s logo for trademark infringement!

Besides the fact that the diminutive one will have a hard time winning a case because use of photos of celebrities for news stories (or when in the public interest) is supported by law, it is badly thought out move. Web Sherriff (acting on behalf of (“ “, Symbol, Prince, The Artist, whatever) state that this is part of a broader copyright infringement strategy that has been spun negatively by the fan sites. Be that as it may, it makes poor strategic sense to target your fans. Even if these fans are viewed as not representative of broader fans (which is probably a questionable assumption), they are particularly avid fans and particularly vocal. With Prince increasingly moving towards new distribution models, and increasingly attempting to disinter-mediate record labels, he needs the fans more than ever. If he succeeds in alienating his core fan base he will find it increasingly difficult to find success, and since the cover mount initiative he’ll find labels increasingly disinclined to work with him.