The record shops are up in arms about the plan to give away Prince's new album with the Mail On Sunday. The man from HMV called it "absolute madness". They reckon that if this goes on, Prince's albums will no longer be stocked in record shops. (Coo. And my Dad's a policeman.)
For Prince it makes absolute sense; he gets his umpteenth record in the hands of millions of people who wouldn't otherwise buy it and he also gets a large cheque from the Mail. They big him up in an almost comic fashion, describing him as "rock's greatest superstar" and claiming he has "millions of fans" who can hardly sleep for thinking about his forty-fifth album.
If Prince has the slightest scintilla of self-effacement (I know, stay with me) he knows that his record will create no excitement if he takes the conventional retail route. By taking the MOS option he creates the effect that every other new release thinks they're getting but aren't - that of a large rock thrown into still water. He grows his fan base and gets paid for doing it.
The people who should probably be thinking twice are The Mail On Sunday. How long can Sunday newspapers go on spending eye watering sums of money in order to carve out a few market share points for just one week? At the moment they're providing a lot of stars with an unexpected pension.