Sony BMG U.K. nixes Prince release

Disc dropped after giveaway in the Mail

Sony BMG U.K. has decided to not release Prince’s next album in Britain, contending that a Sunday giveaway of the disc in national newspaper the Mail will cut too deeply into its retail potential.

The Mail on Sunday, which has a circulation of about 2 million, struck a deal with the musician’s reps to include a copy of Prince’s “Planet Earth” in each copy of the paper more than two weeks before its official release. The decision initially rankled retailers and then led to Sony, which has a worldwide deal to release the album, to drop it from its U.K. schedule.

The Prince album was scheduled for release in the U.K. on July 16. Columbia Records, which released his last disc, “Musicology,” will release it on July 24 in the U.S.

Despite the decision to drop the U.K. release, Sony BMG stressed in a statement that it is “excited about being in business with Prince” in the rest of the world.

Since he left Warner Bros., which released his classic work in the 1980s, Prince has inked separate distribution deals for each of his albums. There could be legal ramifications for OKing the giveaway as Sony BMG says it had nothing to do with that deal.

Prince, as he did with the “Musicology” disc, is giving away the album to concertgoers who attend his 21 shows at London’s O2 Arena in a run of dates that begins Aug. 1.

Prior to Sony’s decision to pull the plug on the album, the Guardian quoted Paul Quirk, co-chairman of the Entertainment Retailers Assn., as saying, “The Artist Formerly Known as Prince should know that with behavior like this, he will soon be the Artist Formerly Available in Record Stores.”

He called the distribution plan “an insult to all record stores.”

The Guardian also reported that HMV toppers were scathing in their comments about the plans. Speaking before rumors of a giveaway were confirmed, HMV chief exec Simon Fox said: “I think it would be absolutely nuts. I can’t believe the music industry would do it to itself. I simply can’t believe it would happen; it would be absolute madness.”

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