Musician Prince performs onstage on May 24, 2006 at the Kodak Theatre in Hollywood, California. (Photo by Vince Bucci/Getty Images)

How Prince helped pioneer the business side of online music

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  • More popular and trending stories" target="_blank">Pop superstar Prince died Thursday at age 57, leaving behind a history of pace-setting online business moves in addition to an epic music catalog.

    Prince was one of the first major musicians to sell his music online — his 1997 album, “Crystal Ball,” was first released exclusively on the Internet. In 2006, he won a Webby Lifetime Achievement award for how he used the Internet to distribute his songs, including his NPG Music Club, which at the time of the award offered seven full-length Prince albums unavailable anywhere else.

    The musician turned his efforts against online music piracy in 2007, becoming one of the most vocal performers speaking out against websites such as Napster that at the time allowed users to download popular songs for free. According to a CNet article from 2007, some believed Prince made his turn after possibly disappointing revenue from his experiments with online distribution of his music.

    That idea was cemented as Prince continued to create new music, while also continuing to fight for a bigger cut of the proceeds of digital sales of his music.

    » PHOTOS: Prince through the years

    In 2013, he told the Mirror in the UK that the Internet is “completely over. I don’t see why I should give my new music to iTunes or anyone else.” He clarified later in an interview with The Guardian that he meant “the Internet was over for anyone who wants to get paid, and I was right about that.”

    After leaving Warner Bros. in the 1990s and returning in 2014, Prince said in a rare sit-down interview in 2015 with several journalists that the music industry is like “slavery,” with record labels and streaming services raking in cash while artists receive a fraction of a penny per play of their songs.

    In July 2015, Prince pulled most of his music catalog from streaming services including Apple Music — you’ll only find two of his nearly 40 studio albums there today — and partnered with Jay Z to offer his extensive catalog of music to subscribers of the rapper’s Tidal service.

    One of his most recent studio albums, “HITnRUN Phase Two,” was first released on Tidal in December, and on CD in January. Several singles from the album were released first through streaming services, including “Baltimore” via Soundcloud and “Stare” via Spotify.

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