As news of Prince’s unexpected death spread today, shocked fans hoping to stream his tunes on Apple Music came up empty.
In the streaming era, the incredibly prolific musician — best known for his string of hits and Grammy Awards in the 1980s — is practically a ghost.
The pop superstar, who died Thursday morning at age 57, pulled his vast collection of hits from all streaming services, including Spotify and Rdio, last July. He never allowed it on Apple Music. Tidal subscribers can still stream Prince tunes on demand, however, and you can also purchase all of Prince’s albums on iTunes (except the most recent Tidal exclusive).
Stunned music lovers hoping to get a quick Prince fix on Apple Music and Spotify mourned the lack of streaming tracks on Twitter.
@AppleMusic yall gotta fix this prince problem NOW!!!!
— Dub (@DUBisGREAT) April 21, 2016
They shouldn’t have been surprised, though: Prince has long been critical of the internet, especially the digital music revolution it inspired.
One of a handful of major musical acts that refuse to buy into the streaming business, Prince never wanted to give his music away for free. His lawyers have long fought to keep his music off YouTube (including one time in 2007 when they got YouTube to take down a video of a young kid dancing to “Let’s Go Crazy”).
Since Prince isn't on Spotify/Apple Music, I wish I could just hit a "buy all" button in iTunes to get the catalog
— Christina Warren (@film_girl) April 21, 2016
Prince famously told The Guardian that the internet, which he equated with music piracy, was only making big companies any money.
“It’s like the gold rush out there. Or a carjacking,” he said. “There’s no boundaries. I’ve been in meetings and they’ll tell you, Prince, you don’t understand, it’s dog-eat-dog out there. So I’ll just hold off on recording.”
Still, it’s easy to find Prince songs and music videos on YouTube — the internet will not be denied.
— Mark Swain (@I_Am_A_Twit_) April 21, 2016
What will happen now that Prince is no longer able to control his own body of work will be interesting, if not downright melancholy.
The cynic might expect to see a flood of new moneymaking releases and perhaps even entry to the streaming market once again to capitalize on the outpouring of grief from Prince’s millions of fans around the world.
If nothing else, we hope Prince’s music, films, bands and presence will continue to inspire us all in the way it has for the past 40 years or so.
There is some good news if you’re an Apple Music user hoping to hear some classic Prince tracks, though: Beats 1 radio is streaming an impromptu Prince-a-thon, a fitting tribute to the Purple One and the enduring legacy of his music.
Additional reporting by Lewis Wallace.