Unless you’ve been off the planet for the last few days, you’re aware that Prince passed away last week. While the word “genius” is overused, it applies in his case. I hope you’ve seen some of the examples of his art – they’ve been everywhere as the tributes pour in. It’s one of those tributes I’d like to discuss today because it is instructive when it comes to business.
Before we get to that example, let me remind you that one aspect of Prince’s genius was his foresight in seeing how the internet and digital technology would disrupt the music business. This is an excellent overview of his relationship with the Internet from the Washington Post. While Price was an early adapter, appreciating how music could now be sold directly to fans without a record label, he also recognized how that very process could wipe out a revenue stream for musicians. As he put it: “Tell me a musician who’s got rich off digital sales. Apple’s doing pretty good though, right?”
Prince recorded an unreleased song called “There’s Something I Like About Being Your Fool,” and that gets us to our business point today. One of the “tributes” to Prince came from AMC Theaters. They announced that they would play Prince’s film “Purple Rain” in their theaters this weekend to honor him. In my mind, this is the furthest thing from a tribute: it’s greed. There is no mention of AMC letting patrons see Prince’s work for free. They are charging full price. There is no mention that all of the admission proceeds will be donated to any of the numerous charities Prince quietly supported throughout his career. I might be totally off base here and AMC might be doing something honorable, but even if I am, the business point still applies.
As businesses, our motives can’t be questioned. It gets to the issue of trust, and trust is a critical currency these days. If we’re not believable, whether it’s with respect to our products, our customer service, or our alignment with our customers, we’re in deep trouble. Maybe AMC is letting people in for free or donating the proceeds but they’re being awfully loud about the film and quiet about the rest. Unlike the Prince lyric, people don’t like being your fool. Sure, show the movie, but don’t call it a way to honor anyone when you’re lining your pockets using a tragedy. I’m not that kind of fool. You?