How Prince Shook Up the Music Industry

From giving away albums for free to shutting down his website.

ByABC News
April 21, 2016, 2:36 PM

— -- Throughout Prince's prolific career, the artist almost always made a bold statement against the music industry.

Prince Rogers Nelson, who died this morning at the age 57, released 39 studio albums but eschewed the Internet and expressed his distaste for downloading music.

Here are some of his most bold moments in his career:

When He Chose a Symbol as His Name

In June 7, 1993, Prince announced on his 35th birthday that he would be known as a symbol that combined the astrological symbols for man and woman.

”It is an unpronounceable symbol whose meaning has not been identified. It’s all about thinking in new ways, tuning in 2 a new free-quency," his press statement read, according to Entertainment Weekly.

    The genesis of the announcement sprung from Prince's beef with his label, Warner Bros., which reportedly wanted him to to release fewer albums, fearing that they would over-saturate the market. The artist had first signed with Warner in 1977, releasing albums like "Purple Rain" and the soundtrack to the 1989 "Batman" movie directed by Tim Burton.

    In 2000, he began using his name again after his Warner Bros. contract expired.

    When He Inspired Tipper Gore to Push 'Parental Advisory' Labels on Music

    Back in the late 1980s, the Parents Music Resource Center, co-founded by Mary "Tipper" Gore, wife of then-Senator Al Gore, began pushing for warning labels on music with explicit lyrics. Topping a list of 15 songs that the group compiled to present as examples was Prince's "Darling Nikki."

    The story goes that Tipper Gore bought Prince's 1984 album "Purple Rain" for her then 11-year-old daughter. Surprised at the explicit lyrics from songs like "Darling Nikki," which refers to masturbation, Gore tried to return the album but the store where she bought it wouldn't accept the opened album, NPR reported.

    Years later, after congressional hearings and negotiations with the music industry, albums with explicit lyrics have the label: "Parental Advisory: Explicit Content."

    When He Wrote 'Slave' on His Face

    Around the time of his dispute with Warner Bros., he began appearing in public with the word "slave" written on his face.

    "People think I'm a crazy fool for writing 'slave' on my face," he told the magazine Rolling Stone in 1996. "But if I can't do what I want to do, what am I? When you stop a man from dreaming, he becomes a slave."

    When He Sold His Album Directly to Fans

    Before there was iTunes, Prince released his entire 1997 album set "Crystal Ball" through pre-orders via phone or the Internet. Fans could order the album from Prince's then website, or his toll-free line 1-800-NEW-FUNK, reported at the time.

    When He Gave Away His Album

    In 2013, Prince released his album "20TEN" in the U.K. for free to readers of the British newspaper Daily Mirror.

    "I hope you like it," Prince told a reporter for the Mirror then. "It's great that it will be free to readers of your newspaper. I really believe in finding new ways to distribute my music."

    When He Shut Down His Website

    In 2006, Prince's official website closed. An email announcement declared, "The future holds nothing but endless opportunity and we plan on seizing it wholeheartedly. Don't u want 2 come?"

    When He Declared the Internet Is 'Over'

    When Prince gave away his album to readers of the Daily Mirror, he told the newspaper, "The Internet's 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."

    When He Re-Signed With Warner

    Just in time for the 30th anniversary of Prince's classic album "Purple Rain," Prince re-signed with Warner Bros. in 2014. The pair released a "deluxe reissue" of the famed album.

    When He Released a Song on Spotify After Pulling Music From Streaming Services

    In July 2015, Prince released a new song, "Stare," exclusively on Spotify just weeks after pulling his music from most of the major streaming services that offered a free tier.

    When He Surprised Fans With a New Album on Tidal

    Prince surprised fans with the release of 12-song album "HITNRUN: Phase Two" in December exclusively on the music-streaming site Tidal, just three months after releasing "HITRUN: Phase One."