Prince Update: UMG Sues Singer’s Estate

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Prince from his "Controversy" album cover

Prince from his “Controversy” album cover

Update, May 11: Now it seems as though UMG isn’t so gung-ho about Prince after all. In an announcement today, the company that acquired the Prince catalog (see original news item below) demanded that its $31 million deal with the late singer’s estate  be canceled and the money returned, according to court documents filed on behalf of the estate’s administrator, Billboard reported. “UMG has accused former estate entertainment advisor L. Londell McMillan of fraudulent inducement in connection with the deal, and is calling for the court to rescind the agreement,” the article in the trade publication says. “UMG ran into problems as it tried to move forward on the deal and ahead of the one-year anniversary of Prince’s sudden death on April 21, 2016, questions began to emerge about whether the estate’s camp had misrepresented the licensing rights it sold to the record company. While the estate agreed to give UMG the rights to some of the Warner Bros. albums as soon as 2018, for example, Warner’s rights on those albums aren’t set to expire until 2021,” the report says.

Update, Feb. 10: Universal Music Group (UMG) has announced a multi-year agreement with the estate of Prince and NPG Records Inc., effective immediately, that grants UMG exclusive licensing rights to the artist’s NPG recordings, including a library of 25 albums and his trove of unreleased works. With this agreement, UMG becomes the home for Prince’s music publishing, merchandise and much of Prince’s recorded music. The deal provides an opportunity for UMG to work closely with Prince’s estate and heirs by creating new products and experiences. Under the terms of the deal, the estate is licensing to UMG the 25 albums that Prince released through NPG Records, a label founded by the artist that includes double platinum- and gold-certified albums Emancipation, Musicology and 3121. The agreement also provides for UMG and the estate to collaborate with regard to Prince’s vault of unreleased works from throughout his career, including outtakes, demos and live recordings. In addition, beginning next year UMG will obtain U.S. rights to certain Prince albums released from 1979 to 1995.

Here is our original item from last October…
The estate of Prince has announced an agreement with Universal Music Publishing Group (UMPG) to become, effective immediately, the exclusive worldwide publishing administrator for Prince’s entire song catalog. With the agreement, UMPG is responsible for servicing and administering Prince’s song catalog. UMPG will also work closely with Prince’s estate to develop new creative outlets for his music.

In making the announcement, Jody Gerson, Chairman and CEO of Universal Music Publishing Group, said, in a press release, “We’re humbled to be entrusted with Prince’s catalog and I’m grateful to my entire team for their work in making this agreement a reality…With the timelessness and genius of Prince’s music, there are no limits to what we can achieve working with his estate. Prince’s popularity will only continue to grow around the world.”

Sir Lucian Grainge, Chairman and CEO of Universal Music Group, added, “We are looking forward to continuing Prince’s legacy and ensuring that generations to come will know his unique brilliance.”

Related: 10 covers of Prince songs

Bremer Trust, the court-appointed temporary special administrator of the Prince estate, hired entertainment industry experts Charles Koppelman, Chairman and CEO of CAK Entertainment Inc., and L. Londell McMillan, Chairman and CEO of the NorthStar Enterprises Worldwide, to secure business agreements in the best interest of the estate. Koppelman and McMillan commented, “We are pleased that UMPG shall once again administer Prince’s music publishing worldwide and assist the estate by giving Prince’s iconic music catalog the proper care and support it deserves. With this major agreement, the estate maintains ownership of Prince’s music, and now legions of fans from around the world will have even greater opportunities to continue to delight in his incomparable songwriting and musical expression.”

During his career, Prince sold more than 100 million albums worldwide, making him one of the most successful artists of all time, with numerous #1 songs in the U.S. including “Purple Rain,” “Let’s Go Crazy,” “Kiss” and “Cream.” In addition to his own recordings, Prince was a prolific songwriter for other artists as well, with credits including “Nothing Compares 2 U” (Sinead O’Connor), “Manic Monday” (Bangles), “When You Were Mine” (Cyndi Lauper), “I Feel For You” (Chaka Khan) and “How Come You Don’t Call Me Anymore” (Alicia Keys).

Prince won seven Grammy Awards, a Golden Globe Award and an Academy Award for Purple Rain. He was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2004, his first year of eligibility. UMPG served as Prince’s publisher from 2001 to 2014.

Prince apparently did not leave a will, making the fate of his publishing catalog an unknown until now.

Watch Prince’s “Cream” video

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