What does Prince have to do with legal marketing? Keep reading, I promise to tie it all together … If you haven’t heard, Prince (the purple one himself) is hosting a 21-night stand of shows in Los Angeles. Ticket prices begin at $25 (with no fees). Each show has been unique, including special guests (Sheila E, Chaka Kahn and Stevie Wonder) and celebrities to wow the crowd (Halle Berry, Whitney Houston … before getting shipped off to rehab for erratic behaviors at Prince concerts last week). If you’re not in L.A., or don’t have friends in L.A. who are over 40, you probably haven’t heard much about it. Why?? Because Prince won’t go social. Prince has declared war on the Internet and taken down his website, and he’s hired a Web Sheriff to come after those daring to share the purple love. He goes after anyone and everyone who posts a video to YouTube. There is only a limited selection of his music on iTunes. And I am not even going to comment on choosing a location with the crappiest 3G access EVER. We had friends all over the arena and we couldn’t connect because we couldn’t get on Facebook. To throw some salt on my wounds, at last night’s concert (my third attendance :)), security was all over the audience, forcing people to put away their iPhones and Blackberries, making people delete pictures and <<gasp>> videos. In this new social world, sharing our experience ENHANCES our experience. It’s also FREE marketing and advertising. I promise, if Prince had a Facebook page, he’d sell out each show. People would fly in from around the country to see him perform. But the tickets quietly go on sale, and through word of mouth, we local fans are spreading the word amongst ourselves. I can’t help but compare my experience seeing Prince with my favorite band, The Airborne Toxic Event, which actively uses social media to build and engage their fan base. The band members share new songs, new videos, and tidbits about their lives, the tour, their favorite music and books, on their Facebook fan page. The band members are doing this themselves … not just some anonymous webmaster. This local, L.A. band is on the cusp of becoming an international hit. They recently performed on many of the late-night shows (Jimmy Kimmel, Jay Leno), and are a special guest on Gossip Girl this week (I’ve already set my DVR). Their international tour is pretty much sold out. When the Sports Dude and I attended their recent concert, the audience was completely diverse in age, race, socioeconomic status. As I made my way to front stage center, I found myself surrounded by high school and college-aged kids, couples my age and older, all different colors and races. Conservatives to punk rockers. The band is using social media to build and grow their fan-base, which turns into cold-hard cash. The band posed on stage as people took pictures, and recorded videos with their phones and cameras. During the show, pictures started popping up on the band’s Facebook page (yup, I was amongst those uploading). Fans from across the world started commenting on what we were experiencing right then and there. Los Angeles was the kick-off for the tour, and we, the fans, were building enthusiasm for the tour across the world. All while the band played, and at no cost to them. So, back to Prince. During the performance, Prince mentions pulling out your cellphones, calling people, sending out Twitter messages. However, be warned, DO NOT add a Twitpic or video unless you want to get swarmed by yellow jackets, and I’m not talking bees. Yes, the Sports Dude and I surreptitiously took lots of pictures and videos. It was a lot easier at the earlier shows. No security shining flashlights in your faces, no big dudes in yellow jackets yelling at you to delete your pictures. We’ve uploaded some of the pictures and video to our personal Facebook pages, but, unfortunately, I cannot share too much with you here, lest I grab the attention of the Prince police. The idea that we were being intimidated by security left me with a bad taste for the “brand” of Prince (that and he won’t play Erotic City or Head for religious reasons, but has no problems playing Cream?). What we, the fans, were experiencing was being limited. I became obsessed during the show with watching security scramble around the stage, with their flashlights pointed at an offending fan, the yellow-jacketed security people then descending on said fan. And then you notice it. The once, oh-so Fabulous Forum is not packed. There are empty sections with the seats covered (at last Thursday’s show they had a drape over the entire colonnade section). The audience is 95% over 40. Most of the younger people in attendance are there with their parents (like my daughter last week). Prince does not have a younger fan-base. He has purposely chosen not to met his future and potential audience where they reside, and has, instead declared war on the Internet:
“The internet is completely over. I don’t see why I should give my new music to iTunes or anyone else. They won’t pay me an advance for it and then they get angry when they can’t get it.” He went on to say: “The internet’s (sic) like MTV. At one time MTV was hip and suddenly it became outdated. Prince also criticized the advent of gadgets and computers: “All these computers and digital gadgets are no good. “They just fill your head with numbers and that cant be good for you.” Prince has taken his war against the internet one step further by shutting down his official website. His battle began in 2007 when he famously announced his intention to file lawsuits against eBay, YouTube and the Pirate Bay for the misuse of his music. Ever since he has banned such sites from using his music in any fashion and refused to work with legal paid-for options like iTunes, 7Digital or eMusic.
Prince is not replacing his aging fan base. We’re it. And, in my mid-40s, I was at the younger end of the age-spectrum. So what does any of this have to do with lawyers and legal marketing?? Many lawyers and law firms continue to resist social media, including blogs, Facebook, LinkedIn, YouTube, Twitter, etc. I have a legal marketing colleague whose firm BLOCKS Facebook at work. Yikes. Facebook is where I get a lot of my news feeds. Twitter and my RSS reader fill in the gaps as well. Listen up, people. Social media is not a fad. The actual tools and platforms will come and go, they will evolve, they will change. Will Facebook be here in five years?? If it remains relevant, yes. If not, it will go the way of MySpace. But it won’t disappear until there is something better to replace it, and I haven’t seen that yet. The next generation of decision makers are fully entrenched in social media. They have grown up with cellphones and texting is a language to them. They don’t wear watches because their phones are synced with the correct time. To them, this is the way things are done. For us, we must adapt. As for Prince … he still puts on an incredible show and performance. But by overly controlling his social footprint, he is preventing his music from reaching a new, and more powerful, generation. His name might be Prince, but he will never be the king.