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The Artist Suddenly Known As Retail

The Artist Formerly Known As Prince has long been at war with the music business. Unhappy with Warner Bros' release restrictions, the former Prince Nelson Rodgers branded himself a "slave" and proceeded to make mediocre music till his contract expired. He then paid the EMI group to distribute his triumphant return, the 3-CD set "Emancipation" (NPG Records), having done all the financing, designing, production, and marketing himself.

The Artist's latest album, the 4-CD set "Crystal Ball," aims at nothing short of eliminating the music industry altogether.

Well, almost.

His highness proclaimed that "Crystal Ball" would not be released until there were 100,000 pre-orders for it. Fans could get album graphics, song listings, promotional hype, and sound bytes by accessing the New Power Generation web site and dialing 1-800-NEWFUNK. That way, The Artist would bypass record labels, distributors, marketers, radio, MTV, and even stores.

The 4-CD set could provide a potential windfall. Priced at $50, "Crystal Ball" can be manufactured for as little as $7, or about $1.75 per disk. Costs would be cut by waiting until the 100,000 orders came in and producing the album for one bulk shipment. That way, the former royal could lower sales goals while reigning over the profit margin.

Suddenly, however, "Crystal Ball" has begun appearing in major New York-area record chains--some offering discounts. (Sam Goody and J&R Music World have had it for $39.99 since the beginning of March.) However, promotion has been virtually non-existent. When Rockbeat questioned employees at the city's four major chains, they were initially unaware "Crystal Ball" was in stock.

Still, the former Prince hasn't altogether abdicated his internet venture. New Power Generation Records has polished the "Crystal Ball" deal with an additional fifth acoustic CD "Karma Sutra" and a T-shirt, which are available only to online purchasers.

Live Soundtracks for the 5th Annual New York Underground Film Festival

Since 1994, the New York Underground Film Festival has been on "an unholy mission to bring you the best in cutting-edge, subversive, and uncompromising cinema you won't see anywhere else." Besides offering the usual low-budget violence, blatant sexual transgression, and "experimental" production values, N.Y.U.F.F. has paired it's over 100 films and shorts with Shindig 98, five nights of the finest independent rock bands anywhere.

Festival director Ed Halter sees a natural connection between underground flicks and alternative bands. "The New York Underground Film Festival has presented live music since it's beginning," Halter told Rockbeat. "There is a cultural overlap between underground film and music, especially in New York. It's edgy, independent, and about the Downtown aesthetic."

The 5th Annual New York Underground Film Festival and Shindig 98 run March 18-22. Shindig 98 gig tickets are available both in advance and on the day of show at the individual venues.

St. Paddy's Day--Without Green Beer

Legend has it St. Patrick banished the snakes from Ireland, and Irish dramatist Brendan Behan claimed the saint sent them all to New York. Thus, the Viper Ball was born. More than 25 Irish New York artists overrun all four stages of the Knitting Factory with music, performance, and poetry on St. Patrick’s Day. The Viper Ball runs from 6pm till midnight, and $10 gets you into all events.

The Main Stage features local Celtic rockers the Crown Jewels, as well as Sky Rocket, Kevin Lynch Band, Vine, Imelda O'reilly, and the Irish-for-a-night New African Project. East Village Irish acoustic acts work the Alter Knit. Expatriate theater and dance groups work the Old Office, while the Banshee Theatre Group holds readings in the Tap Room. The Viper Ball is ideal for avoiding the green beer, suburban vomit, and other Irish-American stereotypes usually associated with March 17.