Eventually, you see master data management (MDM) problems everywhere. A few years ago, I was turning off the Garden State Parkway in New Jersey and noticed an advertisement for an upcoming concert at a local venue. The performer was identified as “The artist formerly known as Prince.”

Prince, full name Prince Rogers Nelson, is by all accounts a talented and creative rocker. In 1995, he somehow got into a dispute with his record label, Warner Bros., and decided to change his name. He felt that they had controlled his creative output for too long and wanted a completely new identity. To achieve this goal, Prince changed his name to a symbol that he invented and which he deliberately chose not to call anything. This meant that Prince’s new name could never be pronounced or written down as words. Anyone can invent a surrogate key that has no meaning and describes no characteristic of what it is identifying. To create one that cannot be communicated is a mark of true genius.

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