Next Sunday, Prince fans in the United Kingdom will be able to get a new 10-song CD, Planet Earth, simply by buying a newspaper.
The Mail on Sunday has bundled CDs several times before, and they usually have sold about 2.5 million papers with these promotions. By way of comparison, the top-selling album this year reached sales of only 1.7 million copies in the U.S. as of July 4. So this is a no-brainer for Prince: he immediately gets his music into the hands of 2.5 million people, some of whom might then buy concert tickets, which earn far more money for artists than record sales. (Prince is also giving Planet Earth away to anybody who buys a ticket to his current tour.)
But physical music stores, already hurt by the decline of the CD, are not pleased. The CEO of one music retailer, HMV, said it would be "absolutely nuts" to carry the CD for free. Then HMV changed course, and was promptly denounced by rival Virgin Megastores. But I wouldn't be surprised if Virgin decides to sell the paper as well--how can you fight the rising tide? At least it would get Prince fans into the store, where they might buy something else.
Those who miss the newspaper promo--including those of us living outside the U.K.--will have to wait until July 24 to buy the record.