It only took eight months for a closely watched contest to be resolved. We may be hearing more of Prince’s music now that he has passed.
The sum is undisclosed, but according to Universal Music Publishing Group and the estate of music icon Prince, an agreement for the songwriting rights has been finalized. This is the first major deal for Prince’s music.
The New York Times article “Universal’s Deal for Prince’s Song Rights May Bring a Wider Audience” reports that the agreement gives Universal long-term administration rights for Prince’s hits and raises the possibility that the songs—which Prince kept from many online services—could become more widely available.
The CEO of Universal Music Publishing said the company will work closely with the estate on the catalog of about 1,000 Prince songs to provide access to these songs for his fans.
Prince’s estate retains ownership of the songs, and the agreement doesn’t cover Prince’s recorded music rights. Those songs’ rights are still the subject of their own aggressive bidding war.
The rights to the rock star’s publishing catalog, which includes lyrics, chords, and melodies of the songs, are extremely valuable. Prince kept close control over this, and in 2014 he regained total control of his publishing. It’s an unusual arrangement, as most songwriters assign their songwriting copyrights to their publishers. Prince also used his publishing rights to limit where his music could be heard online, refusing to let his music be played on YouTube. In 2015, he took all of his music from all streaming services except Tidal.
Prince died intestate—without a will—and with no directions for the management of his music, which is valued as high as $300 million. The estate appointed two seasoned music executives in June, L. Londell McMillan and Charles Koppelman, to manage his music catalogs and do new deals for his songs, which some say were underexploited.
McMillan and Koppelman commented that with the agreement in place, the estate will maintain ownership of the music while fans will have greater opportunities to experience Prince’s creativity. The head of Universal, Ms. Gerson, was equally enthusiastic; saying that it was always her dream to have the Prince catalog in her roster.
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