This past July, Prince placed his new album on the breakfast tables of 2.8 million Britons through copies of the The Mail on Sunday. And now Ray Davies, lead songwriter/singer of The Kinks, will give away his new album, "Working Man's Cafe," with copies of the Oct. 21 Sunday Times.
The paper is expecting to move 1.19 million issues of Davies' album, and, like Radiohead's recent semi-giveaway, it looks good for artists and fans. Oh, and newspapers too.
In the U.K., papers still have tremendous reach, and the largest have inflamed the competition by bundling in free CDs, about 78.3 million last year. Prince excepted, most of the free discs have been compilations of remainder-bin dustbunny tracks licensed on the cheap -- but they've helped move paper.
Now, with new records by prominent artists, free albums can provide something nearly as valuable as sales: cultural clout for a media brand. Fellow Brit rockers Charlatans have announced that their newest album will be a free download on the website of U.K. rock station Xfm. It's a novel execution of the same idea, and one that's sure to create more converts, if not freebie-loving immigrants.