You may have noticed that for the past year or so, it’s been mighty difficult to find much of Prince’s music on this here internet. But all that has changed this week - now, if you’re a member of any of the big dogs of musical streaming (Spotify, Deezer, Apple Music et al) then you’ll be able to plug in your headphones and jam to your heart’s content.
That’s because Prince’s estate has agreed to allow a huge chunk (most) of his back catalogue available to stream.
The dodgy thing being it’s pretty much the opposite of what Prince would have wanted – he was pretty clear in his disdain for internet-based musical consumption. So much so, that he got nearly all of his music removed from streaming services and YouTube back in 2015. The odd song, collaboration and live performance remained, but if you wanted to listen to full albums, you’d find it difficult to do so.
Here he is cussing the digital way in an interview with The Guardian back in 2015: “What I meant was that the internet was over for anyone who wants to get paid, and I was right about that. Tell me a musician who’s got rich off digital sales. Apple’s doing pretty good though, right?” He was referring to his previous comments about the way the music industry was heading, to The Mirror in 2010 :
"I don't see why I should give my new music to iTunes or anyone else. They won't pay me an advance for it and then they get angry when they can't get it.” At the time of this interview, he instead chose to release one album on CD exclusively to readers of The Mirror - thereby retaining his required control over who got it (sort of).
This quest to retain complete control over his output mirrors his 1995 decision to change his name to a symbol – it was a defiant act of (admittedly detrimental) rebellion against Warner Bros, who owned the rights to his name. Once that contract expired, and his sales had dipped, he changed it back. Point made, we guess?
Saying this, he eventually caved and allowed Tidal (Jay-Z’s not-so-popular service) to stream some of his music, due to its supposed emphasis on artist rights above all else. Unfortunately, this didn’t go to plan and has since turned sour. His estate is now suing Roc Nation because they subsequently released an extra 15 Prince albums after his death, which was supposedly never in the agreement.
Prince’s back catalogue is now owned by Universal, and (along with Warner Bros.) they’ve taken the grave-spinning decision to simply bang it all out there for everyone to listen to. Of course, this is good news for all of us, but not necessarily for our favourite sequinned legend, who’s presumably shaking his bequiffed head as he looks down on us from above.
However, there might be a reasonable reason behind this decision: Prince’s estate is rumoured to owe around $100 million in taxes, despite being worth a hefty $200 million. Needs must, we suppose - they’re expected to make $25 million this year alone.
Aside from the release of his old stuff, there are also plans for two new albums of unreleased material, two full concert movies and a wealth of other surprises around the corner. So, regardless of your standing, we’re just the messengers – it’s all there for you to listen to (all the Warner Bros. stuff, anyway), so do with that information what you will. He may or may not have already been on in the office today. God, he’s good.