35 Days Against DRM -- Day 7: Prince: Friends without benefits.

Mike McCarty sends in his horror story of being a Prince fan, as a reminder of some of the tricks being pulled on music fans in this DRM age. Mike wins one of our T-shirts and a DRM-free album from Magnatune.

We begin with the demise of Prince's DRM-music service, New Power Generation.

Act One. Prince's music service: Defective by Design

Luckily I only purchased one of MANY DRM-laden album from Prince's now defunct New Power Generation website, Xpectation. It came in the DRM-encumbered Windows Media format, but this was before I was ever aware of the horrors of DRM. Ironically, I EXPECTED the files to work pretty much forever, maybe not forever but at least a few good years. However, I guess the joke was on me as I misplaced the files on an external harddrive a year or so ago and recently located them only to find out there's absolutely nothing I can do with them.

This is pretty common with digital files, but many of the DRM-free providers such as Magnatune and eMusic allow you to redownload your purchases directly from them.

Act Two: Prince's war on the Internet

Prince's war with all things internet has left me with quite the sour taste in my mouth. Pointing my browser to the website I purchased the album from confirms that the address cannot be found. No surprise. I think it's been gone for at least a year or two now. A while back I had heard the site went under and that Prince had begun using his MySpace page. This has since been shut down as well.

As The Register noted last September:

Teaming up with Web Sheriff, the firm currently known as "Europe's leading internet policing specialist," the Minnesota-born pop star has already ordered YouTube and eBay to remove hundreds of supposedly Prince-infringing web items, and he's intent on filing suit against the two web behemoths - not to mention Swedish BitTorrent tracker The Pirate Bay.

Mike continues his story:

Searching Prince fan sites such as Housequake, prince.org and a few others have led me to the fact that there pretty much is no way to contact Prince OR his camp in ANY form whatsoever. Also, there was never any mention to his fanclub (which I DID pay $25 to join) that they would no longer be supporting the DRM-laden files when the NPG Music Club went under. No other fans, or what Prince likes to call "Friends", knew what to do about the files either. The only suggestion I was given, which isn't possible now that the files cannot be played, was to burn the files to a cd and rip them back to mp3 if I want to put them on the ol' mp3 player. Well... the files won't play, so how am I supposed to burn them? It's just not possible.

Ah yes, the burn-to-a-CD-defense. This is a pretty common reaction to the problem that DRM causes. Of course, buying DRMed media, burning to a CD, and ripping the CD, all takes time and effort and means losing quality. Often DRMed music makes it hard for you to burn it to a CD -- you have to use specific proprietary software to do a job that is much better done elsewhere.

Act Three: You wouldn't treat your friends like this...

I used to be a massive Prince fan -- I won't say friend since I certanly wouldn't treat a friend the way he's treating his fans, but his adamancy about people stealing or sharing his work has alienated me and I'm sure quite a few others. Sure he gave away Musicology when you saw him in concert a few years back, but I still PAID for the Xpectation album and feel that I should be able to listen to it as long as I keep the files handy. I WILL NOT purchase another DRM-laden file ever.

Thanks Prince, for absolutely nothing except a good old-fashioned lesson in what not to do in future.