Facing Sunday’s televised tribute to Prince at the Grammy Awards and the approaching anniversary of his death April 21, the handlers of his estate worked fast to settle some of the biggest business matters surrounding his music this week.
On Friday, the Universal Music Group announced a multiyear agreement to license all of his recordings that are not already committed to Warner Bros. Records. And trade publications confirmed rumors that Prince’s best-known albums and songs finally will become widely available Sunday on streaming services including Spotify, Apple Music and Napster. Previously, they could only be streamed through Tidal, Jay Z’s service.
The Universal deal essentially makes the parent company of such record labels as Interscope and Def Jam the curator and seller of a significant portion of his unreleased recordings, including most of the contents of his fabled vault at Paisley Park.
Universal also will have the rights to albums Prince released after his Warner Bros. heyday, such as “Emancipation,” “Musicology” and “The Rainbow Children.” What’s more, the company will oversee Prince’s publishing (songwriting) rights and merchandising, likely the two most lucrative parts of his estate.
Before his death, Prince negotiated a new recording deal with his old label, Warner Bros., which will likely include reissues of his most famous albums, including “Purple Rain,” “1999” and “Sign o’ the Times.”
According to the trade magazine Billboard, these deals were overseen by veteran music executive Charles Koppelman and Prince’s one-time attorney L. Londell McMillan. The latter’s involvement in the estate was questioned in court by two of Prince’s siblings last month. Exact terms and dollar figures for the deals were not divulged.
“What I am most thrilled about,” McMillan told Billboard, “is taking this great body of work and working with the family and others in the industry to determine how it will be reintroduced to generation Y and Z and continue that legacy.”