When Prince Launched the Short-Lived Website, 20Pr1nc3.com
On Jan. 22, 2013, Prince ended a three-year absence from the internet with the launch of a new website, 20Pr1nc3.com.
The site followed an uncharacteristically quiet period for the musician. After a recording hiatus, Prince re-emerged in 2013 with new music and a new tour, backed by a new band, 3rdEyeGirl. That year, he received the Billboard Icon Award at the Billboard Music Awards, where he also performed. Additionally, he made a third appearance at the Montreux Jazz Festival.
Through it all, he remained an independent artist, tasked with handling his own distribution and promotion. So, he decided to go back online.
Arriving nearly three years after Prince closed Lotusflow3r.com, 20Pr1nc3.com had a simple layout with very little content. Fans could watch the lyric video for “Screwdriver” -- a track which would find a home on the HitnRun Phase Two album three years later -- as well as a promotional video for singer Andy Allo’s 2012 LP, Superconductor, which Prince executive-produced. There was also a teaser for live concert footage of Prince at the 2009 Montreux Jazz Festival, which was never officially released.
“I wanted the site to be a non-designed site,” Jason Franzen, the site’s creator, told the Prince Online Museum, a comprehensive archive of Prince’s websites. “It had only one purpose – hosting and selling video clips – and I wanted it to be completely focused on that. … Although everything was rushed, the site was as I intended in the end. Simple. Sparse. Functional.”
Franzen originally pitched Prince his idea for an app called ONE GIG, which would fulfill the artist’s distribution needs. Though Prince appeared interested, he hired Franzen to create the lyric video for “Screwdriver” instead. It had to be ready in time for Prince to show Billboard reporter Gail Mitchell, who interviewed him for a late-January cover story.
“After the interview, Prince casually mentioned that he got them to give him a full-page ad in the magazine,” Franzen said. “I asked him what the ad would be for and he replied coyly, ‘I don’t know – you come up with something.’”
Thus, 20Pr1nc3.com was born. The Billboard ad was a simple, black page featuring Prince’s symbol and the URL. The website was also mentioned in the article, which centered on Prince’s views on the music industry.
“He decries radio’s airplay stranglehold and sees playlists for both terrestrial and satellite radio subject to the demands of corporate boards,” Mitchell wrote. “He laments there’s too much gaming of the system with the cost being fewer opportunities for minority ownership and the silencing of important voices.”
Prince only used 20Pr1nc3.com to circumvent industry restrictions for a brief period. By early February, the website redirected to prince2013.com. By August, its content was removed, and visitors were redirected to 3rdeyegirl.com, which had become the official go-to site to buy Prince music and videos.
“In the canon of sites, it is likely the least complete and least impactful based on its minimal purpose and scope,” Franzen said. “I wish I had more time to build and polish the concept into something more valuable or unique.”
While Prince abandoned 3rdeyegirl.com in 2014, he kept up his online activity through Twitter, Instagram and a partnership with Tidal. He continued to stay busy, releasing three solo albums and embarking on two more tours before his death in 2016.
But 2013 will be remembered as a special period, setting Prince back in motion with a mission, which he explained to Billboard at the time. “[The year] is just about introducing talented, young musicians and doing something different musically,” he said.