Prince’s long battle with the music industry dates back to the beginning of his career – he frequently appeared in public with “slave” scrawled on his cheek before parting ways with Warner Bros. Records in 1996 – but now, almost 10 months after his death, his haul of recorded music – both released and unreleased – has found a new home.
Universal Music Group has inked a multi-year agreement with Prince’s estate, and his label NPG Records. The leading major label group now has rights to most of the late artist’s released and unreleased works, plus publishing rights and merchandising.
Specifically, Prince’s estate is licensing all 25 albums Prince released under NPG and UMG, and here’s the best bit for UMG: the company can release Prince’s vault of unreleased music and video from his Paisley Park bank vault. Apparently he’s got enough material to satiate fans for the next century, and that’s if his estate decided to release just one album a year.
From 2018, UMG will also get the US rights to “certain renowned albums” released by Prince between 1979 and 1995. That includes works like Purple Rain, 1999, Diamonds and Pearls, and Sign O’ the Times, all released during his most commercially successful period with Warner Bros.
Through a deal inked last year, Warner has certain rights to Prince’s material. The small print is complex to say the least; the deal includes different terms for different territories and soundtracks and according to Billboard, some of the rights will be maintained and some will expire in 2021.
UMG deal expands on its publishing agreement with the Prince estate, announced in November. Its publishing arm UMPG exclusive global administrative rights to Prince’s entire catalogue, including four decades’ worth of unreleased material.
Sir Lucian Grainge, Chairman and CEO of UMG, said:
“Prince was one of the greatest musical talents of all time – an incomparable genius as a performer, recording artist and songwriter. It’s an absolute honor to once again be selected by Prince’s estate to be the home for publishing, merchandise and now for so much of his incredible body of recordings. UMG is committed to honoring Prince’s legacy and vision by creating the highest quality products and experiences.”
Prince associate L. Londell McMillan, who represented the estate in the negotiations, said:
“I am thrilled the NPG catalog and Prince’s highly sought after unreleased recordings will reside with UMG, where we have found a partner who is passionate about presenting Prince’s music with a holistic vision that celebrates his iconic status across recorded music, publishing and merchandise and will continue to deliver the highest quality experiences that fans have come to expect.
“I’m looking forward to seeing Lucian and Michele (Michele Anthony, Executive Vice President of UMG) achieve great things for Prince’s fans, his estate and heirs.”