The Princely Sum Of Nothing

Prince upset the U.K.’s record retailers by giving away copies of his new Planet Earth album to anyone who bought the July 15th edition of Mail On Sunday.

Along with its various weekend sections, the record was packaged into the paper’s £1.50 asking price.

Not only has the giveaway attracted a welter of criticism from retailers, who would have had stock in the following day, it’s also caused Sony BMG U.K. – the diminutive one’s British record label – to pull the plug on the album’s U.K. release.

The U.S. launch of Planet Earth is slotted for July 24th.

"The Artist formerly known as Prince should know that with behaviour like this he will soon be the Artist Formerly Available in Record Stores," said Entertainment Retailers Association co-chairman Paul Quirk. "It is an insult to all those record stores who have supported Prince throughout his career."

Retailer HMV, which doesn’t normally sell papers, took a flexible approach and all of its 400-plus U.K. stores stocked Mail On Sunday.

"Like it or not, selling the newspaper is the only way to make the Prince album available to our customers," an HMV spokesman told international newswires.

Virgin Megastore managing director of retail Simon Douglas rounded on HMV for doing "a complete U-turn," as both companies opposed the Prince gimmick when it was first announced.

"It’s not only retailers that suffer. The public will suffer in the long term by restricting choice on the high street," he argued.

The Mail On Sunday hasn’t revealed how much it paid to make the deal or how many copies of the Planet Earth edition it shifted. Its average circulation is 2.3 million copies.

Sony BMG U.K. has said it was ridiculous to go ahead with its own sales launch in light of the newspaper deal, but it stood by its star singer by adding that it’s still "delighted" to be working with him.

Prince also plans to give away a copy of Planet Earth with each ticket sold for his 21-date run at London’s O2 arena.