With NPGMusicClub.com, Prince became one of the first major artists to sell music directly to fans. It also featured several exclusive works by the Purple One that were never available in stores.

There is speculation that the site’s closing might be related to copyright problems. Prince attempted to trademark “NPG Music Club” in the world, specifically Nature Publishing Group owned by HM Publishers Holding Limited. Coincidentally, HM Publishers filed an opposition to Prince’s trademark attempt the same day NPGMusicClub.com went dark. But lawyers in the Prince camp say the two actions are not related.

By The Numbers

Nielsen SoundScan recently released its mid-year music industry report, and while the report covers sales of music in all formats, the digital picture continues to outpace years past.

For starters, Nielsen SoundScan reports that sales of digital tracks are up 77 percent over 2005, with 280 million tracks sold during the first six months of 2006. The average weekly track sales totaled 10.7 million compared against 6.7 million in 2005. When it comes to digital album sales, the figures are up 126 percent compared with the first half of last year, with 14.7 million CDs sold as downloads so far this year compared against 16.2 million CDs downloaded during all of 2005.

A lot of numbers to digest, for sure. But if there’s one thing apparent in all of Nielsen SoundScan’s digital numbers it’s that online sales have yet to “level off” or even reach a plateau. And it’s a good bet that next year’s mid-year figures will be even better. That is, if you can find someone foolish enough to bet against you.

Ring A Ding Ding

There are a lot of concerts this summer and Verizon Wireless is bringing you a taste of all that live music action.

The wireless provider recently launched V CAST Performances, described as a “music performance and concert tour program” featuring concert clips viewable on Verizon’s V CAST-capable phones. V CAST launched on July 10th with caught-in-the-act footage by Gavin DeGraw and Live, as well as an exclusive performance by Cheyenne Kimball at New York’s Canal Room.

Future V CAST Performances will include theatre and club shows, tours presented by Verizon Wireless and special live performances. V CAST phone users can download streaming video clips and new music videos on a rotating basis with up to three broadband video clips of every artist featured in the series.

“V CAST Performances is for mobile phone users who are passionate about music and seek the one-of-a-kind music experiences unique to live performances,” said John Harrobin, Verizon Wireless VP of marketing and digital media. “V CAST Performances let fans experience the excitement of live music shows on the one device they always have with them – their wireless phone.”