Universal Music Group has been looking for an out from its $31 million deal for a raft of Prince’s recording rights. Now, the giant music company just might have it.
According to Billboard, a judge last week granted UMG access to WMG’s until-now confidential contract with the late Hall of Famer. It’s the first time UMG, the world’s biggest music company, has studied Warner’s own licensing agreement with Prince, which was forged in 2014.
UMG figured the Purple One’s catalogue was the perfect fit, seeing as the company already had deals in place to represent Prince’s publishing rights and merch and his secretive “vault” of unreleased works.
So back in February, UMG pulled the trigger on a multi-year agreement with Prince’s estate and NPG Records which was thought to give the major exclusive licensing rights to Prince’s post-1996 catalogue and the U.S. rights to “certain renowned albums” from his Warner Bros. era (1979-1996). However, few hard facts on the deal were shared at the time.
As it turns out, there was also a lot of guesswork for UMG. And as time moved on, the music major fell out of love with its expensive acquisition and its execs took legal steps to have it canceled. UMG went on to blame former estate entertainment adviser L. Londell McMillan for misleading over the terms of pact (which McMillan denied) and in May the company asked a Minnesota court to rescind the pact, on the basis that it conflicts with rights that Warner Music Group already holds. Should the deal be canned, those recorded music assets would return to auction.
With the judge’s permission, UMG’s legals will have poured over the paperwork to determine the validity of its licensing agreement, and whether it all stacks up, and if it points to the exit.
Read more about the latest development here.