Ms. Lippin, president of the Los Angeles-based publicity firm the Lippin Group, was sitting in her office early last year when, out of the blue, Prince phoned. After "a 3-minute interview," the artist asked if she would help relaunch him into the public eye after a years-long absence. Just as quickly, she accepted.
"I had a feeling it would be a real professional adventure," says Ms. Lippin.
As she found out, Minneapolis' favorite son had plenty of his own strategies in mind and personally made decisions about how his comeback would unfold. First up was his G-rated renovation. Tossed out of his set lists were the most explicit songs from his repertoire, the ones that gave parental warning labels a workout.
Prince, after a nasty battle with his former record label and some self-imposed out-of-the-spotlight time, was on the verge of some of the highest-profile events of his career. He was being inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, launching a national tour and releasing a CD. He wanted to do it right, both from the creative and business perspectives, she says.
From the start, Ms. Lippin says her job centered on presenting options that would sustain Prince's momentum through the year but not oversaturate the market. Among her early suggestions: put in some face time at the Golden Globes and perform at the Grammy Awards, where his opening duet with Beyonce became a show-defining moment.
Other ideas: do TV interviews, a rarity for the notoriously camera-shy Prince, but start with Tavis Smiley's PBS show instead of some quick-hit general entertainment program.
"She's right on the cutting edge," says Teri Brown, president of TBA Network, who worked with Ms. Lippin on a James Taylor CD distributed by Hallmark retailers. "She's not afraid to try something that is so far out of the box that it could work well or fail miserably. But she has such a positive attitude, she says, `I'm going to make it work."'
It was Prince's idea to include a CD of his new Columbia Records release "Musicology" with the ticket price of his concerts, and in an unprecedented move, getting those CDs counted by Nielsen SoundScan as part of the total sold. He also shepherded the deal with AEG and Regal Cinemas for live simulcasts of his shows at theaters around the country.
Prince had the top 2004 tour with $87.4 million in sales, more than Madonna, Metallica and Celine Dion. His record went platinum, pulling in some $2 million in sales.