- The Washington Times - Monday, July 16, 2007

Sign o’ the times?

Pop maverick Prince yesterday gave away about 3 million copies of his new album “Planet Earth” with British newspaper the Mail on Sunday — amid protests from music retailers.

The 10-track CD is reported to be worth more than $500,000 to the diminutive musician from Minneapolis best known for hits such as “Purple Rain,” “Kiss,” “Sign O’ The Times” and “Raspberry Beret.”

The album is not due to go on sale until July 24, but Prince plans to give away copies to fans attending one of his 21 concerts at the O2 arena in southeast London in August and September.

“It’s direct marketing and I don’t have to be in the speculation business of the record industry, which is going through a lot of tumultuous times right now,” the 49-year-old singer said recently, when asked why he was giving away the CD.

The Mail’s editor, Peter Wright, told BBC radio yesterday that the newspaper had paid the artist for the license to produce the CD and to press and advertise it, adding that he hoped for a boost in sales and advertising revenue as a result.

The Entertainment Retailers Association, which represents British music stores, criticized Prince, whose previous spats with the record industry included using a symbol instead of his name and writing “slave” on his cheek.

“It is an insult to all those record stores who have supported Prince throughout his career,” the association’s co-chairman Paul Quirk said in a speech last month. “The Artist formerly known as Prince should know that with behaviour like this he will soon be the Artist Formerly Available in Record Stores.”

Slava’s art to be sold

Some 350 paintings and objets d’art collected by the late Russian cellist and former National Symphony Orchestra conductor Mstislav Rostropovich and his wife, soprano Galina Vishnevskaya, will be auctioned by Sotheby’s in London on Sept. 19, Moscow’s Rossiyskaya Gazeta reported Saturday.

The collection, which was assembled mostly before the run on Russian art hit world auction centers, was estimated at a minimum $6 million, the state daily wrote.

The couple decided to sell off the collection, made up of art dating back to the 18th, 19th and 20th centuries, before Mr. Rostropovich’s death in April, as Ms. Vishnevskaya plans to move to Russia for good and would abandon all foreign property.

“When we were stripped of citizenship in 1978, we bought the apartment we lived in all these years, one we decided to make into a Russian house,” Ms. Vishnevskaya recalled.

“We bought art all over the world. It is interesting for me to remember when and how I bought this or that object, what impressions I had the first time I saw them,” the singer said.

Actor sues lawyers

Steven Seagal is suing a law firm that once represented him, accusing it of charging him excessive fees, according to court papers.

The actor hired Loeb & Loeb in April 2002 when he testified before a federal grand jury and in the criminal trial of his former business associate Julius Nasso, the lawsuit says.

The associate produced films with Mr. Seagal in the 1990s and was accused of trying to extort money from the actor after they dissolved their partnership, according to the suit.

Loeb & Loeb charged Mr. Seagal nearly $1.1 million, according to court papers, filed Thursday.

Mr. Seagal paid about $500,000 but became skeptical and obtained a legal audit that determined he was “substantially overcharged,” according to the lawsuit. Mr. Seagal is seeking at least $450,000 in general damages.

Loeb & Loeb maintains Mr. Seagal still owes the firm $575,400, the lawsuit said.

Representatives of Loeb & Loeb did not return calls seeking comment Saturday.

Mr. Seagal, 56, is best known for his martial-arts moves in films such as “Under Siege” and “Exit Wounds.”

Compiled by Kevin Chaffee from wire reports.

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