What’s in Prince’s secret vault at Paisley Park? It’s still a secret but Universal Music Group has won exclusive licensing rights to it, so we may find out. Eventually.
Universal announced on its website a multi-year agreement with the late superstar’s estate and his NPG Records that grants UMG exclusive licensing rights to his library of 25 albums and his “highly anticipated trove of unreleased works.”
Meaning: The stuff in the vault.
The news comes as the Grammy Awards broadcast on Sunday is preparing a tribute to Prince, and as his fans prepare to enjoy more opportunities to stream the Warner Bros. portion of his musical catalog on subscription services such as IHeartRadio, Apple and Spotify. Up until now, those Prince albums were only available on Tidal, because before he died Prince himself rejected putting his music on streaming services.
But the vault music has always been something of a Holy Grail to fervent fans. And it was a hush-hush matter even before the hush-hush Prince died in April 2016, age 57, of an accidental drug overdose at his Paisley Park compound outside Minneapolis.
Afterwards, in the messy ongoing business of settling his multi-million-dollar estate — lacking a will — it had vaulted (sorry) to even higher status as a possible additional revenue source for the administrators of the estate, faced with gazillions in government tax bills.
The Universal statement was vague about details of the deal, but said UMG would, effective immediately, become the home for Prince’s music publishing, merchandise and much of Prince’s recorded music. The company said it would work with Prince’s estate and heirs (who still have not been officially declared) to create “new products and experiences” spanning Prince’s artistic output.
Under the deal, the estate is licensing the 25 albums that Prince released through NPG Records, including Emancipation, Musicology and 3121. The estate and UMG will collaborate in deciding what to do with Prince’s “vault of prized unreleased works from throughout his career, including outtakes, demos and live recordings.”
And beginning next year, UMG will obtain U.S. rights to “certain renowned Prince albums” released from 1979 to 1995.
The UMG announcement is replete with such corporate vague-speak but it does seem clear that money-making opportunities are ahead, which thrills both corporate executives and the administrators of Prince’s estate.
“UMG is committed to honoring Prince’s legacy and vision by creating the highest quality products and experiences,” promised Sir Lucian Grainge, chairman and CEO of UMG, in the statement.
“It’s an honor professionally and personally to be entrusted with these cherished recordings, including his storied ‘vault’ of unreleased music, and to partner with his estate and heirs to preserve and expand Prince’s legacy,” added Michele Anthony, executive vice president of UMG.
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