In the words of Jane’s Addiction’s Perry Farrell, “everybody has their own opinion”, and here is mine. Word this morning is that not only has Prince obtained the publishing rights of his older music (previously owned by Universal), but he has now obtained the master recordings, something he has fought for for over twenty years. When he marked his face with the word “SLAVE”, it had to do with issues pertaining to Warner Bros., as he wanted to own his own music. You would think that would be a simple task to do, but when you’ve made your company millions of dollars, that company does not want to give up what is essentially a piece of their cash cow. Prince changed his name to a symbol, he released music independently, then he left Warner Bros. to find a new home first with EMI, then with Universal. This left some fans wondering if he was so fed up with the music industry, why is he still catering to them by being associated with a major label.
Prince has showed he has a winning formula, but with every winner, there’s a miss. Prince has sold music independently, but the reason he has fought so hard for his older music is because not only does he want ownership of his own music, but because he will be able to earn as much from it. In a world where MP3′s are king and concert sales earn an artist much more than music sales, where does this leave Prince? If anything, it leaves him a much happier man.
This is what’s known. 2014 marks the 30th anniversary of Purple Rain, both the album and the movie. Many fans are expecting for some good things to happen in commemoration of it, and the article reveals that there will be a 30th anniversary deluxe edition of the album. Contents haven’t been announced yet, but one hopes it will feature all of the B-sides (both 45 and 12″ versions), live performances, and alternate takes, outtakes, and demos that have been circulating amongst collectors for 25 years. Will a deluxe edition also feature a DVD featuring all the videos made, live videos, and TV performances? Ideally, it would be nice but that would require to pay a fee for the use of his performances from the American Music Awards and Grammy awards but this is Prince, so we’ll see.
In terms of his publishing, it is possible we will hear more Prince material in television commercials, along with TV shows, movies, video games, and apps. Signing the contract is all about exploitation, and with him having full ownership, he will be exploiting himself in his own way. Now, it doesn’t have to be a specific product, in fact one doesn’t even have to hear Prince sing. It can be a portion of “Little Red Corvette” behind an ad for a car. Maybe a portion of “Delirious” for Cialis. “America” heard for a store selling patriotic carpets. The sky is truly the limit, but it also depends on if he wants to do it that way, or if he plans on selling his music in that fashion.
With him owning his master recordings, I am sure the requests for how his music will be sold will be an issue. Fans have wanted all of his albums to be properly remastered, and while there is a Kevin Gray-remastered version of Purple Rain, it is said to have been done not from the actual master tape, but a safety copy. If there is a series of Prince vinyl remasters, will they be done on 180g/200g vinyl? Will it be just the albums, or all of his 12″ singles? How about compilations of nothing but high quality versions of unreleased goodies? Or how about a compilation of unreleased music videos, as Prince was known to shoot his own videos at Paisley Park, only to never show them again? He could release them on DVD or Blu-Ray, or keep it digital and have it shown on Netflix. Speaking of Netflix, how about director’s cuts of Under The Cherry Moon or Sign ‘O’ The Times, or are films excluded? How much of the foods are the public going to get? How free will Prince’s new form of freedom be? Will the door be wide open, or more selective than ever?
I loved what Frank Zappa was able to do when he finally obtained the rights to his own music. He released some projects on his own Barking Pumpkin label, but also had a deal with Rykodisc who ended up releasing most of his albums and new compilations, in the way he wanted them to be heard. It did upset a number of Zappa fans, who wanted to hear certain albums as is and not fixed up/edited in the way Zappa felt was better, so I’m certain people on different Prince-related boards will nitpick about things.
Of course, the focus of this article is to show how selfish we, as fans, can be about our favorite artist. Or maybe that’s just me. Either way, the fact that he owns publishing and the master recordings is a huge plus for him. Part of this still has him attached with Warner Bros., who I am sure do not want to lose contact with someone who made them a healthy amount of money in the 1980′s. You can say that Prince is now on the same level as Neil Young, who Warner Bros. do not want to lose either. Young left Reprise records in order to find a new home with Geffen Records, where he ended up making five albums. While those albums were not big sellers as the work he did with Reprise, it proved to Reprise why Young was an asset to the label and why the label was an asset to him. Young was allowed to continue to explore, all while still earning a percentage of what he earns every year from “Heart Of Gold”, “Tonight’s The Night”, and “Long May You Run”. This could mean that Prince will be pulling some of Warner Bros.’ strings this time around, but who knows at this point. However, now that someone like Prince owns his work, where does that leave others who continue to fight for their rights to make a living from what they created in the first place? Will more artists continue to push forward or still earn an annual amount that continues to dwindle for the sake of another person’s livelihood?
Also at hand: Prince samples. While not as heavily sampled as James Brown or Sly Stone, there’s a nice amount of Prince-related samples in hip-hop, electronica, and other forms of music. Will his people pursue those who have sampled him? Will he be open to more sample usage? How about Prince multi-tracks, how much of that will surface, if at all, outside of what already exists on bootlegs and file circulation?
Until we hear “Starfish & Coffee” become the best part of waking up this morning, I say congratulations to Prince. We eagerly await to see and hear what’s next, and no doubt will be arguing when it doesn’t satisfy us because you know, we’re selfish when we don’t have to be.