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Prince Rules the Airwaves

The diminutive funk rocker will take over five channels at once Wednesday, when MTV, MTV2, BET, VH1 and VH1 Classic simultaneously broadcast a 30-minute concert special taped live last week before an audience in New York.

The concert features songs from Prince’s latest album, Musicology, plus some of his classic hits.

“This historic broadcast, going out simultaneously over the five most influential music networks, is a tribute to the music and artistry of one of the most singular talents of our time,” said Columbia Records exec Will Botwin. “With a fast-paced combination of brilliant performances and compelling interviews, this show will be remembered as one of the most special entertainment events of the year.”

Though each network will air the same musical lineup, the broadcasts will feature different interviews with the singer-giving true fans a reason to test the limits of their TiVos.

“The support for Musicology is wonderful,” Prince said in a statement. “We’re pleased to broadcast the Musicology special throughout the Viacom music channels. It is great to see audiences around the country embracing music again.”

The Rock and Roll Hall of Famer is currently on his first major arena tour in six years, promoting Musicology, as well as reportedly performing his best-known body of work live for the last time.

That’s right-after the tour, the funk legend is reportedly shelving classic hits such as “Purple Rain,” “Little Red Corvette,” “Raspberry Beret”…and the list goes on. The rationale? He claims he’s been “wanting to make room for new music.”

He wants his fans to make room for new music as well, judging by the fact that each concertgoer on his tour will receive a copy of Musicology at the door.

Originally touted by the singer as a free CD, tour promoters have revealed that the cost of the album was actually factored into the price of each concert ticket-which ranged in cost from $47 to $75 in most cities.

Fans who want to see the show are therefore given no choice about buying the album (albeit at a discounted price). However, judging by strong ticket sales and positive tour reviews, it seems that most are OK with ponying up for the CD.

However, some music industry insiders’ feathers were ruffled by Nielsen SoundScan’s decision last week to count each album passed out as a sold CD.

“These were presented to the public as being free CDs, they are handed to people who had no choice in buying them, and that really shouldn’t be recognized as the same as the other albums on the chart,” one record label executive told the Los Angeles Times last week.

The “free” CD strategy is expected to add 400,000 to Prince’s sales tally-just 100,000 short of certified gold-and that’s not counting the albums he sells at retail.

To date, the Grammy-winning artist has sold over 100 million records over his 20-year career.

He was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame last month in his first year of eligibility, where his electrifying opening performance proved he’s ready to party like it’s 2004.

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