In total, 23 albums by Prince – originally released between 1995 and 2010 – are now available to stream for the first time from today.
This covers his post-Warner Bros releases when he put out material on his own NPG label and partnered with a mélange of labels (including EMI, Arista, Columbia, Universal and, yes, Warner Bros) on a seemingly ad hoc basis over the years.
These streaming releases are the first fruits of an exclusive distribution agreement signed in June this year between the Prince estate and Sony Music Entertainment (whose Legacy label will be in charge of the reissues).
The deal will be extended in 2021 when Sony will be in charge of distributing his non-soundtrack albums made between 1978 and 1996.
It has been a long and turbulent story with regard to Prince and his music online. When alive, he moved to scrub all his music from YouTube (notably resulting in the long-running “dancing baby” lawsuit) and then, after signing with Tidal, pulled his music from all the other streaming services in July 2015.
His music from the Warner years eventually returned to non-Tidal services in February 2017, almost a year after his death. The Sony deal with the Prince estate came after the very public and very ugly collapse last year of a deal with Universal Music Group covering his post-Warner recordings.
UMG had paid $31m to buy the rights to his later recordings as well as unreleased albums in his near-mythical vault – but this was eventually voided by the courts in July last year. Universal still administers his publishing and merchandise rights.