Where can you find Prince now?
He is not on Spotify. He is not on Apple Music. He’s not on YouTube or Vevo; he never posted his official videos on either platform. He released his last album exclusively on Tidal. And no one wants to subscribe to Tidal. Even Beyoncé knows that.
So fans hungering for the sweet, mostly-NSFW sounds of Prince’s phenomenal catalog had to get it the old-fashioned way: By buying the albums.
The Very Best of Prince, a greatest hits collection released in 2001, is sitting at number one on the Billboard 200 album chart, with 179,000 copies downloaded, streamed and/or purchased on CD. In the number two spot: 1984’s Purple Rain. Making this already-impressive feat even more noteworthy is the fact that the Billboard 200, dated May 7, closed only hours after the news of Prince’s death became public. Since his death, Prince has sold almost 3.5 million albums and songs.
Way back when — in 1999 — after fulfilling his misery-inducing contract with Warner Brothers, Prince became one of the first artists to embrace online distribution models for his music, releasing his new work through his personal internet subscription service, NPGOnlineLtd.com, a site he later closed down. He launched a number of other sites, including LotusFlow3R.com in 2009, but shut them all down as well. In a 2013 Billboard story, Prince told a reporter that he employs “a team of female black lawyers who keep an eye on such transgressions,” seeking out and taking down Prince videos or performance footage posted online.
As he told the Daily Mirror at the time, “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.” In July 2015, Prince pulled his music from all streaming services, save for Tidal, with no public explanation. His move coincided with the launch of Apple Music’s streaming service.
Though Prince is an exceptional case, access-wise, posthumous album sales spikes are fairly common among well-loved musicians. Some research indicates that a musician’s record sales can jump by more than 50 percent following their death. Whitney Houston hit a sales record after she died in February 2012, becoming the first woman to get three albums in the top 10 of the U.S. Billboard 200 charts simultaneously. In the week of Michael Jackson’s death in 2009, all three of the best-selling albums in the U.S. were his: Number Ones, The Essential Michael Jackson, and Thriller. The week after Kurt Cobain died in 1994, Nirvana album sales increased by over 150 percent. Notorious B.I.G. was killed in 1997, just before Life After Death was set to be released; the album went on to sell 689,000 copies in its first week.