Unreleased Prince music to be sold

Prince
Prince

LOS ANGELES • The estate of Prince, who long battled the music industry when he was alive, announced a deal on Thursday with the world's largest label group Universal to release much of the pop icon's vast catalogue.

Under the deal, Universal gained rights to the fabled vault of unreleased music that Prince kept in his Paisley Park estate in Minnesota, where he died last April aged 57.

Universal is also taking control of 25 albums that he released on his own NPG Records imprint from the mid-1990s, when he wrote "slave" on his cheek and changed his name to the unpronounceable "love symbol" to fight his contract with Warner Brothers.

Universal said, without further details, that it will obtain rights in the United States to "certain renowned Prince albums from 1979 to 1995" - the star's emblematic era when he topped the charts with Purple Rain and other works.

The contents of the singer's vault have never been fully revealed; the announcement said only that it included outtakes as well as live and demo recordings.

The deal for the early catalogue would mark a major blow to Universal's rival Warner, which had reconciled with Prince in 2014. Warner Bros had already announced that it will reissue Purple Rain accompanied by a full second album worth of unreleased material.

"Prince was one of the greatest musical talents of all time - an incomparable genius as a performer, recording artist and songwriter," Mr Lucian Grainge, chairman and chief executive of Universal Music Group, said in a statement which did not disclose the deal's value.

Mr L. Londell McMillan, the star's lawyer who represented the estate, voiced confidence that Universal - which earlier reached a separate deal for Prince's songwriting rights and struck a merchandising deal with the estate - was "passionate about presenting Prince's music with a holistic vision that celebrates his iconic status".

The music industry at large is eagerly awaiting Sunday's Grammy Awards, when most streaming services including Spotify have plans to finally release the Warner portion of Prince's music.

But the material covered under Universal's new deal is not set to be part of that release. The annual awards show will also feature a tribute to the singer.

Prince was a staunch critic of labels and later the Internet, describing corporations as putting artists into virtual slavery.

He streamed his music only on rap mogul Jay Z's upstart Tidal service, which he credited with giving him wide artistic freedom.

AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE, NYTIMES

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on February 11, 2017, with the headline 'Unreleased Prince music to be sold'. Print Edition | Subscribe