RIP Prince, a legendary musician with a complicated Internet history

Popular and talented musician dies at the age of 57

RIP Prince, a musician with a complicated Internet presence

Prince performing during "American Idol" finale at Kodak Theater in Hollywood  in 2006

Credit: Chris Pizzello/Reuters

I still recall where I first saw the late Prince's 1984 movie Purple Rain -- at a now-defunct bar called Play it Again Sam's in Boston's Allston/Brighton area where those of us who couldn't afford a fancy high-tech machine called a VCR would go to watch second-run movies while downing pitchers of beer and buckets of popcorn.

Prince, who died today at the age of 57, probably would have frowned on such repurposing of his artistic output in light of his well-documented and uneasy relationship with the latest technology for distributing video and audio.

As my colleague Mark Gibbs discussed back in 2010, Prince that summer famously shuttered his website and proclaimed that "The Internet is completely over... All these computers and digital gadgets are no good. They just fill your head with numbers and that can't be good for you."

Prince's relationship with the online world didn't get much smoother after that. 

The Guardian ran a story in late 2014 titled "Prince quits the Internet," after the singer of Kiss, 1999 and Raspberry Beret nixed his Twitter and Facebook accounts, and his Youtube videos started disappearing (I attempted to embed a Prince performance from Super Bowl XLI into this post but embedding was disabled, either by Prince or the NFL I assume). Prince only allowed one song, 2015's Stare, on Spotify. He even filed a lawsuit against fans for sharing bootlegged copies of his music online, though eventually dropped the suit, and not surprisingly, he banned fans from taking smartphone photos at his concerts.

Prince spoke to the Guardian in 2015 and elaborated on his pronouncement about the Internet's fate: "“What I meant was that the internet was over for anyone who wants to get paid, and I was right about that. Tell me a musician who’s got rich off digital sales. Apple’s doing pretty good though, right?”

In fact, though, Prince actually seemed to have come around on the Internet to some degree. He did put his HITNRUN album last year on Jay Z's Tidal music site. He also said journalists are now held more accountable because if they write false things online, people will call them out.

News of Prince's death Thursday briefly crashed the TMZ news site. From there, fans flocked to the Internet and social media to mourn this music star who did his darnedest to stay off the grid.

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