Prince and Target: A Match Made in Discount Heaven

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Alexandra Wyman / Getty Images

Prince in Hollywood on Feb. 22

When you think of Prince, do you expect to get more and pay less? Probably not, but that hasn't prevented Target, the 1,677-store discount chain, from striking a deal with his royal funkiness to be the exclusive retail outlet for Prince's new three-disc set. The Prince collection features two predictably tough-to-spell-check original studio albums, LOtUSFLOW3R and MPLSoUND, and a third record, Elixer, which will introduce the world to Bria Valente, the next in the long line of purple protégés.

Target will bundle all three albums for $11.98, available starting March 29. (See the best 100 albums of all time.)

Other than the fact that both hail from Minneapolis, what brings this odd couple together is one thing: money. Linking up with an exclusive retailer is not a new idea, but it has proven to be quite a profitable one of late, at least for well-established musicians. The Eagles and AC/DC released their most recent original albums exclusively through Wal-Mart, and in January, Bruce Springsteen gave the chain an exclusive greatest-hits set. Each benefited from massive in-store promotion and stop-the-cart placement — AC/DC's Black Ice sold 1.92 million copies to rank as the fifth best-selling album of 2008. Paul McCartney also saw some of the best sales of his solo career when he struck a less exclusive deal with Starbucks and its record arm, Hear Music. (See the best and worst Grammy performances of 2009.)

While no one on the music or retailing sides is desperate to reveal the price tag of an exclusive-rights deal, several sources indicate that bands have received in the mid-six figures to fork over their music and participate in promotion.

As interesting as Prince's new music is likely to be — through all of his experiments and career meandering, he's never made a dull album — the marriage of musician and retailer is just as intriguing. The upside for Prince is obvious: in an era when record sales continue to slide, there's nothing quite as sweet as cash up-front, even if it does mean your face on a big cardboard display right next to the Swiffer. For Target, there's a small element of brand burnishing — Prince likes us! — but the music is primarily just one more product to seduce shoppers into its stores.

Whether Target sees an uptick in sales of purple linens remains to be seen, but each of these rock-and-retail experiments brings the future of the record industry into slightly sharper relief. And for mature acts who can bring an upscale fan base into stores, that future appears to be brightening.

See the best comeback albums of all time.

Read a TIME story about Prince giving away his music.