The Idea: Could Prince have been the greatest artist (and brand experience) of the generation? His sudden passing has disrupted the music industry and the broader creative culture. Whether one appreciated his music or didn’t, his talent was magnetic. You could not ignore his ability and desire to seek truths; you could not ignore his ability to tell a story; you could not ignore his authenticity. And that is something that everyone could learn from.
He was the ultimate brand experience.
Prince birthed his own recording studio and label, and he played 27 instruments while self-producing much of his music. He was a curator, influencer of new talent, and owner of his entire creative process – start to finish. Even his Paisley Park Studio home was an artistic ecosystem and center for creative excellence.
Prince produced ten platinum albums and thirty Top 40 singles during his career. He penned his first song at age seven, and has written thousands of songs that have never seen the light of day. He was constantly in a state of creativity, challenging himself most of his career to write “a song a day.”
He was inspired to create something new each day.
His legacy was built on landmark LPs such as Around the World in a Day, Sign O’ The Times, Diamond & Pearls, Parade, Graffiti Bridge, 1999 and of course Purple Rain. Prince was the “creative’s creative” designing four different experimental back-up bands over thirty-five years, blending jazz, funk, hip hop, soul and rock n roll, into a musical style that was always reaching for more.
His craft can’t be ignored. And his approach is worth understanding.
1) Vision – He wrote, composed and produced his own music. At the age of nineteen, he and his band mates performed on American Bandstand (AB) where he very shyly admitted to Dick Clark that he turned down record deals at the age of fifteen because they would not let him produce his own work. His vision was consistent and strong.
2) Creativity – People from all walks of life have yearned to imitate his stage presence. He was absolutely never afraid to be sultry and bend “gender norms”. His work was disruptive, provocative, idealistic and inspirational. Who Prince was as a performer led him to sell more than 100 million records, receive seven Grammy’s and be inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. No one was better at protecting the brand.
3) Originality – Today, the buzz word is “authenticity.” Prince was no stranger to this! Very early on, he was not afraid to show off his style and fashion sense. With “Egyptian-style eyeliner,” high heels, lace gloves & various styles of clothing – he was an original, and he couldn’t be copied.
4) Ideals – Symbolic of his ideals, Prince once turned down a deal to put his songs on “Guitar Hero” because he thought it was much more important for kids to “really” learn to play the guitar. That was more important to him than money. And he always made these tough decisions.
Few artists have influenced all types of music, other artists and the broader culture as much as Prince had when he passed. One of the most gifted artists of the era. And he never overstayed his welcome. Here was his final lesson.
You are the brand experience. Always leave people wanting more!