What is Prince’s latest CD worth? An extra 600,000 copies on your circulation if you’re the Mail On Sunday. In an unprecedented and controversial move, the UK tabloid, which last week sold 2.2 million, this week gave away the artist’s latest release, Planet Earth, as an exclusive — and immediately shifted 2.8 million copies, according to MD Stephen Miro. Guardian says the exercise cost the paper an extra £1 ($4) million in printing and associated costs plus an extra £250,000 ($508,000) to Prince for the license. But, with a cover price of £1.40 ($2.85), it would have pulled in an extra £840,000 ($1.7 million) – “at worst, cost-neutral”, Miro said.
Free CDs and DVDs are now a common promotion tactic employed by the UK’s competitive weekend newspapers to lure readers away from screen-based media, but customers usually get archive and re-releases. To get a major new album release, which typically might cost £9.99 ($20), is unprecedented. The album is not being released in the UK and is not available elsewhere in the world (legally) until next week. Music retail representatives, variously battling dwindling physical sales and online devaluation through digital copying, branded the strategy “madness” and “an insult” last month, as the Guardian noted. The Mail On Sunday sold copies in music retailer HMV and even lobbied the official chart company, unsuccessfully, for its circulation to be included in this week’s album chart.