Prince estate signs fresh deal to release catalog

Prince's estate has struck deals with all three major record label groups since his sudden death in April 2016
AFP

New York (AFP) – Sony Music on Wednesday announced a deal with Prince’s estate to reissue the bulk of his catalog, the latest attempt to monetize the legacy of the pop legend.

Ironically for an artist who famously battled the music industry, with the latest deal Prince’s estate has made announcements with all three major record label groups since his sudden death in April 2016.

Sony said that its Legacy Recordings imprint, which focuses on the archives of classic artists, would immediately have rights to 19 albums from 1995 to 2010 — when Prince bolted from longtime label Warner Brothers.

Starting in 2021, Sony will also obtain the rights to 12 albums from Prince’s golden era including “Controversy,” “1999” and “Around the World in a Day.” The contract notably excludes soundtracks — namely 1984’s “Purple Rain,” Prince’s best-known work.

“A true artist and visionary, Prince changed the world with his music, bringing love, joy and inspiration to millions,” said Richard Story, president of the Sony Music Entertainment Commercial Music Group.

“Sony Music is honored to play a part in keeping Prince’s music alive and making it available for generations of lifelong listeners and future fans,” he said in a statement.

Prince was a fervent critic of music labels, describing corporations as putting artists into virtual slavery.

When he left Warner in the mid-1990s, angered at the controls the label wanted to put on his prolific output, he wrote “slave” on his cheek and changed his name to an unpronounceable “love symbol.”

But Prince reconciled with Warner late in his life. After his death, Warner reissued “Purple Rain” with a second record of new music — part of a vast trove of unreleased songs believed to be stored at Prince’s Paisley Park estate in Minnesota.

Universal Music, the largest record group, last year announced a $31 million deal to bring to the world some of the music from the trove.

But in an unusual twist, a judge months later voided the contract at Universal’s request after the label group said that the estate was unclear about its rights to the vault, which could overlap with Warner.

– Suspense over unreleased music –

Prince, ostensibly a model of health, died at age 57 from an accidental overdose of powerful painkillers. He left no will and had no living children, with his siblings put in charge of keeping his estate afloat.

The estate’s moves have included starting paid tours of Paisley Park — once a mythically forbidding space for Prince fans to enter — and hiring Troy Carter, the manager known for his work with Lady Gaga and Spotify, to handle business decisions.

Carter has taken Prince’s tapes out of Paisley Park to a climate-controled data storage center in California. He has said that an album of fresh Prince material will come out later this year on Warner.

Tidal, the streaming service led by Jay-Z, has also said that it is preparing a release next year of previously unheard Prince music that will be personally overseen by the hip-hop superstar.

Prince released his final two albums on Tidal, with the Purple One hailing the ease and speed at which he could release music through the platform.

His estate in recent months has put out morsels of new music including Prince’s lighter original version of “Nothing Compares 2 U.” The song, one of many Prince wrote for other artists, became a hit for Sinead O’Connor.

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