A significant chunk of Prince’s catalogue will return to market after a judge nullified Universal Music Group’s contentious, multi-million dollar content deal with the late artist’s estate.
Last week, Judge Kevin W. Eide of Carver County District Court in Chaska, Minn., issued an order approving a request to rescind the agreement after UMG accused representatives of Prince’s estate of misrepresenting the assets it owned and asked for a refund – estimated at US$31 million.
After consideration and threats of expensive legal action, Eide approved UMG and Comerica Bank’s motion to scrap the deal. “As previously noted, this Court believes that the Estate must proceed in a cautious manner to preserve the assets of the Estate,” he explained. “While the rescission of the UMG Agreement may certainly be seen as proceeding with a lack of caution, the Court believes that the other option of long and potentially expensive litigation while tying up the music rights owned by the Estate makes the other option more treacherous.”
UMG continues to control the rights to administer Prince’s music publishing worldwide, and make his merch. In a joint statement, UMG and the Prince estate said they welcomed the court’s approval of their “amicable resolution” and looked forward to “continuing to work closely together on Prince’s music publishing and merchandise to ensure that we deliver the very best experiences to Prince fans around the world.”
It’s a definitive conclusion to a pact which, just five months ago appeared to be a great deal for UMG, which was positioning itself as the go-to for Prince’s works. Back in February, UMG announced it had struck a new multi-year licensing deal with Prince’s estate and NPG Records to tap the late artist’s mythical “vault” and represent in the United States “certain renowned albums” released between 1979 and 1995, though specifics were left out of the initial press release.
But the arrangement swiftly went south as UMG discovered Warner Bros owned these Prince rights until 2021, not 2018 as the major had understood.
Question marks remain on whether the special advisors for the estate at the time will have to return their 10% commissions on the deal, and quite how much the slab of Prince’s works will fetch when it’s shopped to potential buyers. Observers expect it will pull less than the sum UMG originally stumped-up.
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Read more in Billboard.