What would Prince do? That’s what his fans are asking since his estate announced a deal this weekend with the TikTok app to use his catalog.
Prince infamously had his lawyers issue cease-and-desist orders whenever one of his songs appeared in an unauthorized online video. Remember in 2007 when his people ordered YouTube to remove a 29-second video of an 18-month-old Pennsylvania toddler dancing to his “Let’s Go Crazy”?
Now with TikTok, people will be able to make their own videos lip syncing to 15-second snippets of songs from Prince’s deep catalog. The thinking is that TikTok will expose his music to a new and younger generation.
In the past couple of years, TikTok has been influential in breaking songs, helping to boost Lil Nas X’s “Old Town Road,” Lizzo’s “Truth Hurts” and Dababy and Roddy Ricch’s “Rockstar,” among others, into mainstream smashes.
“With the addition of Prince’s full catalog on TikTok, it is our hope that a new generation of global fans can find meaning in Prince’s music, and be inspired to create,” Troy Carter, entertainment adviser to the Prince estate, said in a statement.
Carter’s mission is to generate revenue for the estate from entertainment endeavors. In fiscal 2018, he was paid $2 million by the estate, according to court documents.
Other veteran acts including the Beatles, Rolling Stones and Led Zeppelin have not licensed their songs to TikTok.
Industry experts have questioned TikTok’s impact on careers, pointing out that it can create a viral moment, which could hype a particular song but not necessarily foster long-term success.
TikTok launched in China in August 2016, a few months after Prince died; the app became available in the United States in August 2018 after its developer, ByteDance, merged with Musical.ly.
TikTok is the first short-form video app to gain access to the Purple One’s catalog.
As he famously battled Warner Bros. for artists’ rights over ownership of music, Prince was overly protective of his songs and their use, not licensing them for commercials and issuing cease-and-desist orders when his songs were used anywhere without permission.
Prince’s estate licensed “Let’s Go Crazy” for a TV commercial for Capital One, and reached a deal with Spotify in 2017 for streaming rights to Prince’s catalog.
The estate has also been protective of Prince’s copyrights, sending out cease-and-desist orders to the Trump campaign in 2018 and ’19 for unauthorized use of the song “Purple Rain” at rallies.
Prince fans have been mostly skeptical about the TikTok deal. Here are some of their postings on Twitter:
Rosy: “You all know this platform well and I never expected this for Prince. I'm sorry, I disagree greatly. His great music is not worth this economic talk. It is a great disrespect for Prince.”
Nevermind Alexander: “His art exists already, it doesn’t require endorsement from anybody, there’s nothing left to prove. Consuming it in 10 second chunks is not going to convert anyone, listen to it as a whole as it was intended. Otherwise it's just not doing him justice.”
Purple Yoda: “Prince would of hated this and would never agreed to have his music used on such a mind numbing platform where a bunch of morons post stupid videos.”
Ashley: I understand putting his music online is good for marketing but going off the things he said and did in his lifetime, this seems to go against everything he stood for, I agree with what someone else said, he’d have an aneurism if he were around to see this.”
C-Glow: “This is about keeping Prince’s legacy alive, especially with the youth who need this the most. This is one of the best moves the estate has done. Im tired of these old farts talking about ‘he wouldn’t approve.’ Sit down with all of that crap. This is great news & Im all for it.”