Music legend Prince may have been known for fighting against the record companies owning rights to his music, but after an extensive bidding war, it looks like one has won the licensing battle.
According to published reports, Universal Music Group has been granted exclusive licensing rights to “certain renowned albums,” unleashed unto the world by Prince between 1979 and 1995. It is not specific as to what projects they will be receiving, but that time period, as Prince fans will note, marks the Purple One’s initial deal with Warner Bros which by far was his most commercially and critically successful era, comprising some 19 albums including Purple Rain, 1999, Diamonds and Pearls, Sign O’ the Times, Controversy, Parade, and Batman.
According to Billboard, the deal, which is a multi-year agreement between Prince’s estate, NPG Records, and UMG, licenses the 25 albums Prince created under the NPG banner, including Emancipation, Musicology and 3121, as well as empowers the label to put out unreleased works from “the vault.”
“UMG is committed to honoring Prince’s legacy and vision by creating the highest quality products and experiences,” UMG chairman and CEO Lucian Grainge said.
With UMG now serving as the legal authority for all things Prince — this agreement will also include publishing rights and merchanding, many fans are wondering what the deal will mean for the integrity of Prince’s legacy. Despite the uncertainty, Prince associate, and long time friend Atty. L. Londell McMillan assures that the deal will be beneficial to fans as well as the Prince estate and legacy.
“I am thrilled the NPG catalog and Prince’s highly sought after unreleased recordings will reside with UMG,” Londell said. “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.”
In regards to the question on whether Prince’s music will appear on streaming services, reports confirmed Friday (Feb. 10) that the purple one’s biggest songs will be available for stream this Sunday in time for the Grammy Awards. The albums available will be Prince’s early Warner Bros. catalog — spanning 1979 through 1996, and have been said to be appearing on Pandora, Spotify, and Napster (formerly Rhapsody) services.
In response to the backlash from some fans stating that the deals being made are contrary to that in which Prince would have made himself, McMillan states that it’s all being done to preserve the late legend’s hard work remains owned by the estate.
“Some people may say, ‘Why are you making all these deals? Prince wouldn’t make these deals,'” McMillan said. “Prince never wanted to lose ownership and control of his creations, so we place ownership and control [to] preserve the assets and stay within Prince’s brand values.’ As I have told everybody, there’s not gonna be a big IRS truck backing up to Paisley Park saying, ‘I’ll take those assets!'”
No word yet on whether Tidal and Apple Music users will also have access to stream on what is now being dubbed #PurpleSunday as of press time, but we will keep you updated as the story develops.