Prince’s Music Vault Drilled Open

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Prince passport pic 2016The company that is temporarily overseeing the estate of Prince, Bremer Trust, has had the door of the vault containing the musical recordings of the seven-time Grammy winning superstar drilled open. Reports say that Prince was the only person who had the combination to what has been described as a large bank-sized vault containing many recordings at his Paisley Park complex in Chanhassen, MN.

Prince died at age 57 on April 21st without a will. His sister Tyka Nelson filed to become the estate’s executor, and by Minnesota law it would be divided among her and five living half-siblings. The estate has been initially valued at some $300 million.

The contents of the vault are a wild card in not just the valuation of the Prince estate but what if anything will be done with the unreleased material in the vault. The drilling and opening of the locked vault door is to allow an initial inventory of the contents.

Estimates by Prince associates such as engineers and musicians he worked with run from some 500 songs to thousands. The artist was known for his astounding prolificacy, recording at all hours of the day and night and on some songs playing and singing every part.

Matt Fink aka Dr. Fink, keyboard player in Prince’s band, noted how “Prince would rehearse an entire album for a tour and then scrap the whole thing because another idea had come to him.” The BBC made a documentary titled Hunting for Prince’s Vault last year. The tapes are said to also contain jams with jazz music giant Miles Davis and possibly other collaborations.

The big pressing question is: Who (or what entity) will ultimately determine what (if any) material will be released? Which leads to a host of other questions: What songs did Prince consider finished and/or suitable for release? How will the music be released – Prince had recently resisted online music delivery but had used it in the past – and marketed? To cite just a few of many potential issues.

As with other topics, Prince gave differing statements regarding the music in the his vault. One of his biographers, Matt Thorne, tells Newsweek, “He made two contradictory statements. He said that one day he might burn everything in the vault, but I don’t think that was a serious intention. And more recently he also said that one day everything in the vault will come out, that it will be released. I think that’s what we’ve got take on board – that is what he would have wanted.”

Even when a famed and wealthy musical artist dies with a will in place, as did Michael Jackson, legal actions can keep an estate in limbo for years and even decades. While it is likely safe to say that we haven’t heard the last new and/or unreleased music from Prince, just when we will hear any is at this point a very open question.

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