Breaking Brown

April 28, 2016

Prince Won Masters, Was In Deal With Jay-Z to Drastically Reduce Record Company Profits at Time of Death

Prince Won Masters, Was In Deal With Jay-Z to Drastically Reduce Record Company Profits at Time of Death

by Yvette Carnell

One summer evening in August of 2015, a group of journalists gathered at Paisley Park Studios to meet with a reticent musician who’d somehow single-handedly transformed himself into the record industry’s most persistent adversary.

In 2014 Prince won a hard-fought battle against Warner Bros. to gain control over his music catalogue and his name. Now, in a joint venture with Jay-Z’s Tidal a year later, Prince was sharing with reporters his plan for using what he’d learned in combat with Warner Bros. to advantage other artists in their dealings with record companies.

When asked how he planned to garner attention for his new project, Prince replied with a smile, “that’s why you’re here.”

[tweet_box]Prince Won Catalogue, Was In Deal With Jay-Z to Drastically Reduce Record Company Profits at Time of Death[/tweet_box]

That Prince had invited reporters into his private mansion in 2015 to announce a renewal of conflict between himself and the record industry was a news-making event. Mainstream media, however, buried the ground-breaking meeting in other headlines.

The same press that gave only a cursory nod to Prince’s 2015 meeting is now falling all over itself to report salacious gossip about the details surrounding the musical icon’s mysterious death. Anonymous sources are being used to depict Prince as a drug addled, AIDS infected, pill-popping degenerate.

The Daily Mail even went so far as to interview Prince’s alleged drug dealer,  somehow surmising that a musical legend who seemed more comfortable on the stage than anywhere else, suffered from stage fright. Another report claimed that Prince hadn’t slept for days at the time of his death. Prince’s brother-in law, who did not live with the singer, was the source for that report.

After Prince’s death, his estranged sister, a former crack addict and prostitute, rushed to cremate the singer without conducting an independent autopsy or opting instead for a burial. (Reports indicating that Jehovah’s Witnesses require cremation after a follower’s death were untrue.)

What we do know about Prince paints a picture in stark contrast to what is currently being presented by mainstream media. As he expressed to reporters during that fateful meeting at Paisley Park, his next battle wasn’t just about artistic freedom. It was about financial freedom–for all artists. Prince was demanding ownership, and with billions of dollars at stake, this was a much more perilous adventure.

“Once we have our own resources, we can provide what we need for ourselves,” Prince said during the meeting, according to NPR. “Jay Z spent $100 million of his own money to build his own service. We have to show support for artists who are trying to own things for themselves.”

Prince had been David to the music industry’s Goliath in several well publicized skirmishes. He famously refused to sign contracts with record companies where he did not have creative control and in 1997 became the first artist to sell records directly over the internet.

The only thing standing in the way of Prince turning his passion for ownership into a movement was the refusal of other artists to follow suit.

“He was forever trying to persuade other artists to do the same,” says Prince’s former attorney, Gary Stiffelman, according to Billboard. “This truly was a cause, not just ‘I want to make more money.’ ”

Although Prince had secured his own freedom as an artist, he’d previously lacked a mechanism with which to institutionalize his model for the entire industry. It’s one thing to accuse the music industry of turning artists into slaves, as Prince did during that August meeting, but another thing altogether to devise a plan that promises to get those artists off the plantation. That’s where Jay-Z’s Tidal came in.

Tidal was Prince’s instrument for allowing artists to receive revenue untouched by their record label. “I would tell any young artist … don’t sign” record deals, Prince said.

In the current figuration, artists are beholden to record companies for revenue, but Prince prefigured Tidal as a way for artists to control their revenue from streaming. He’d already removed his own music from streaming services that only pay artists a pittance.

Prince had a plan. Part of that plan included giving money to Trayvon Martin’s family through Rev. Al Sharpton. Another part of that plan was donating money to black activists through Van Jones. But Prince also had a plan to free artists from the grip of their record labels, a constricting force that he knew all too well. Why would a man with a plan for everything die without a plan for what happens to his fortune after he’s gone?

Is it possible that Prince neglected to sign a will and spent his last days self-medicating? It’s not only possible, it’s likely that this was the case. Chronic pain can convert even the strongest willed people into addicts.

It is just as true, however, that whole industries in this country are built on black failure. The mass incarceration complex in this country doesn’t provide lucrative contracts for builders or provide jobs unless black men fail. The payday loan industry doesn’t exist unless black people are financially strapped. Our failure is the gasoline on which this country runs. Anyone strategically plotting a way forward where blacks are not on the bottom of the economic totem pole is not only risking his art, but his life.

One of two things happened; either Prince died without a will or someone is withholding it. We may never know. It is curious, however, that a man who understood the power of contracts and their skillful execution left the bulk of his estate to former drug addicted sister to whom he was never close.

 

 

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17 thoughts on “Prince Won Masters, Was In Deal With Jay-Z to Drastically Reduce Record Company Profits at Time of Death

  1. Watchful says:

    Welp!

  2. dzny says:

    This article never details how making a deal with Jay Z was going to free all artists.  Tidal is a distribution mechanism, and it is a middleman (just like labels), so I don’t get how throwing your catalog into Jay-Z’s pile constitutes “freedom”

  3. Watchful says:

    dzny

    It seems he was focusing more on streaming rights or something like that. U can read more about it in the article at the link below.

    http://www.rollingstone.com/music/news/prince-warns-young-artists-record-contracts-are-slavery-20150809

  4. dzny says:

    That’s what THIS article’s headline purports to reveal.

  5. Watchful says:

    dzny

    Well I’m certainly no expert on the business aspects of that industry, but perhaps if u r, u could shed more light on how he maybe should have gone about it differently.

  6. RMRblogsite says:

    It’s clear that if artists don’t sign record deals and record their works then deliver them directly to Tidal that will cut out record labels from owning their masters, publishing and 50% of their touring profits, merchandise, television and movie appearances. Everyone in the industry knows streaming is the new CD. Record labels sign artists and deliver their music to all streaming services and collects the royalties. Musicians are normally too poor to audit the labels so they have no idea how many downloads and streams are actually being sold. Musicians are the most disrespected creators on the planet. No real unions, illegal downloads in the billions and we are the ones who bring happiness into so many peoples lives with our art. What a tragedy! Prince had the right idea and he was one of the only fearless leaders we had to guide us. Now it’s up to us to carry the torch.

  7. Watchful says:

    RMRblogsite

    Thx so much for that clear and concise explanation. I kinda figured that’s what Prince was referring to, but not being an industry insider I wasn’t able to explain as well as u did … thx again. And I hope, in the future, u and other artists will be able to cut out those big corporate middlemen and get ur deserved share of profits for ur hard-earned work and creativity. Best wishes to u.

  8. GoldRules says:

    “Anyone strategically plotting a way forward where blacks are not on the bottom of the economic totem pole is not only risking his art, but his life.”
    Absolutely! And that’s why sell-outs, lackeys, and Uncle Tom’s exist.

  9. brotharoyce says:

    dzny Freedom from a specific dynamic of a system………Unifying, Pulling resources & Building is the way…….

  10. JohnSmithSaid says:

    GoldRules Yes and that’s probably what got Prince taken OUT.

  11. MellisaRose says:

    He od’d on his own the first time tho

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