Nearly a year after Prince's sudden death at the age of 57 on April 21, 2016, seemingly without a will, the late icon's estate is continuing to deal with processing his business affairs, including the fate of his recorded-music legacy. In February, Universal Music Group announced a deal to take over the licensing for Prince's post-1996 -- read: post-Warner Music Group -- recordings and unreleased works, adding that beginning in 2018 it will begin to obtain the rights to "certain renowned albums" from Prince's 1978-1996 WMG era.
But while that deal seemed to clear up some of the questions surrounding the complicated rights structure of Prince's musical legacy, it ultimately raised more questions than answers, as questions arose regarding which albums were licensed to Warner Music Group and which to UMG -- and when any such handover might take place. (The rights to Prince's soundtrack albums -- such as Batman and Purple Rain -- would remain with WMG in perpetuity, for instance, while some rights would not expire until 2021, sources say.)
But in recent days, Universal Music Group has reportedly expressed a growing displeasure with the deal, rumored to have been worth $30 million, amid claims that representatives from the estate had misrepresented what was available, and when, according to sources.
That deal, in addition to others for Prince's publishing, merchandising and branding and streaming licenses and rights, was negotiated while L. Londell McMillan and Charles Koppelman were advising the Prince estate in its entertainment deals. On April 10, however, former Lady Gaga and Meghan Trainor manager Troy Carter took over those duties, and Carter released a statement today regarding the confusion over the negotiations.
"The Prince Estate is currently focusing on exciting new opportunities in all areas of entertainment and intellectual property, and looks forward to further preserving Prince's rich cultural legacy," Carter wrote in a statement released to Billboard. "With respect to Prince's recorded music rights, the Estate has no further comment regarding inquiries relating to the contractual arrangements governing those rights.
"While the existing recorded music rights agreements were not overseen, negotiated or consummated by the Estate's current team (which includes personal representative Comerica Bank & Trust N.A., Entertainment Advisor Troy Carter, entertainment attorney Jason Boyarski of Boyarski Fritz LLP, and the Minneapolis law firm Fredrikson & Byron, P.A. that serves as general counsel to the Estate), the team is nonetheless in the process of assessing all rights relating to Prince's recorded music and continues to be dedicated to cultivating, maximizing and protecting all of the Estate's intellectual property rights," the statement continued.
Carter, who in June 2016 became the global head of creator services for Spotify, was appointed entertainment administrator for the Prince estate last week, supplanting McMillan and Koppelman.
Additional reporting by Ed Christman.