Prince Free Album Causes BMG U.K. to Pull Distribution

Sony BMG U.K. has decided to not release Prince’s next album, contending that a Sunday free giveaway of the disc with a British tabloid newspaper will cut too deeply into its retail potential. The Mail on Sunday, which has a circulation of about 2 million, struck a deal with the musician’s reps to include a copy of Prince’s “Planet Earth” in each copy of the paper more than two weeks before its official release. The decision initially rankled retailers and then led to Sony, which has a worldwide deal to release the album, chose to drop it from its U.K. schedule. The album is not scheduled to go on sale until July 24. Since he left Warner Bros., which released his classic work in the 1980s, Prince has inked separate distribution deals for each of his albums. There could be legal ramifications for the giveaway as Sony BMG says it had nothing to do with that deal. Prince, as he did with the “Musicology” disc, is giving away the album to concert-goers who attend his 21 shows at the O2 Arena, a run of dates that begins Aug. 1. Prior to Sony pulling the plug on the album, the Guardian quoted Paul Quirk, co-chairman the Entertainment Retailers Assn., as saying “The Artist Formerly Known as Prince should know that with behavior like this he will soon be the Artist Formerly Available in Record Stores.” He called the distribution plan “an insult to all record stores.”

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