Just ahead of the return of the Prince back catalogue to streaming services this Sunday, Universal Music has announced that it has won the battle to manage his (non-Warner) recordings.
The multi-year deal struck with the late star’s estate assigns Universal exclusive licensing rights to Prince’s NPG recordings, as well as his (reportedly considerable) vault of unreleased tracks.
Universal was one of several companies in the frame for the deal, although the fact that its publishing and merchandising divisions had recently signed deals with the Prince estate seemed to have put UMG in pole position.
“Under the terms of the deal, the Estate is licensing to UMG the 25 albums that Prince released through NPG Records, a label founded by the artist that includes Double Platinum- and Gold-certified albums Emancipation, Musicology and 3121,” explained UMG’s announcement.
“The agreement also provides for UMG and the Estate to collaborate with regard to Prince’s vault of prized unreleased works from throughout his career, including outtakes, demos and live recordings. In addition, beginning next year UMG will obtain US rights to certain renowned Prince albums released from 1979 to 1995.”
So, Universal will now be a one-stop shop for Prince’s non-Warner recordings, his publishing and his merchandise rights. “UMG is committed to honouring Prince’s legacy and vision by creating the highest quality products and experiences,” said chairman and CEO Sir Lucian Grainge.
Now all eyes will be on the Grammy awards this Sunday, which are widely anticipated to herald the return of Prince’s back catalogue to streaming services.
Prince removed his back catalogue from every streaming service bar Tidal in the summer of 2015, although he later put individual tracks on Spotify. His two ‘HitnRun’ albums that year were both exclusive to Tidal.
After his death, Tidal added more Prince albums to its service, although that has since sparked a legal dispute with his estate, which claims that Tidal did not have the rights to make them available.