Prince’s lesson: be true to yourself

Angus Kidman 22 April 2016 NEWS


The music legend had no interest in conforming.

All I can think about this morning is the totally unexpected news that Prince has died at the age of 57. Prince has been making music for as long as I've been listening to it. Even though his profligacy means that there are potentially thousands of hours of unreleased recordings yet to be unveiled, none of that makes up for the fact that he'll no longer be creating and performing.

I saw him live just once, in January 2007 during his Las Vegas 3121 residency, which meant that instead of being crammed into an arena I was just metres away from the stage. It was an unbelievable show. His was an unbelievable life.

Prince was a one-off, but his approach does have lessons for us all. What I keep thinking about today was how he fought against the music industry establishment and explored new ways of releasing his music on his terms. When Warner Bros refused to release him from his contract (while declining to release much of the music he had recorded), he painted the word "slave" on his face and then changed his name to an unpronounceable symbol. At one point, he even proposed re-recording all of his earlier albums so he could release them without the label taking its cut.

He disliked interviews, and when he did consent to them, he refused to let reporters make recordings or take notes. Newspapers referred to him as The Artist Formerly Known As Prince; fans affectionately shortened that to Taffy.

Prince experimented with alternate methods of release long before they became the norm. His NPG Music Club subscription service predated modern-day equivalents like Spotify by more than a decade. His Planet Earth album was given away free with a newspaper.

He was a keen protector of his own intellectual property -- if you popped live footage onto YouTube, his lawyers would quickly be onto you with a takedown notice. His music isn't currently available on Spotify, but you can find much of it on Tidal, an option Prince preferred because artists had more control over how they appeared on the service.

Of course, it's easier to be your own person when you have a genius for composition and performance, and confidence in your own vision. But emulating that confidence and self-belief is something we can all aspire to.

Angus Kidman's Findings column looks at new developments and research that help you save money, make wise decisions and enjoy your life more. It appears Monday through Friday on

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