Business News Labels & Publishers Legal

Universal to see Warner’s Prince deal

By | Published on Monday 19 June 2017


Universal Music will get to see the deal done between Prince and Warner Music in 2014, so to work out for itself if the agreement it reached with the Prince Estate in February to represent the late musician’s recordings conflicts with its rival’s existing arrangement.

As previously reported, Universal Music did three deals with the Prince estate to represent the musician’s song rights, merch rights and recording rights. But with the latter agreement, the mega-major has since said that it’s rights to distribute many of Prince’s hits are more restricted by the star’s earlier contract with Warner Music than they were led to believe before agreeing to a $30 million+ deal.

To that end, Universal wants out of that deal, and the bank now administrating the Prince estate, Comercia – which was not involved in any of the negotiations with the major – has recommended to the court overseeing the late musician’s affairs that the agreement be rescinded. Though some of Prince’s heirs disagree. They being the heirs advised by L Londell McMillan, who negotiated the Universal deals on behalf of the estate.

On Friday, the judge overseeing the case said that Universal must now be able to see the contract that Prince signed with Warner in 2014. It has not previously had access to that paperwork, relying on McMillan and his associates to communicate what rights Warner has over Prince’s recordings.

The 2014 deal is believed to be a somewhat complicated arrangement in which Prince got some of the copyrights in his early releases back, but mainly for the US only, and via which he then immediately licensed those recordings back to Warner, with the terms of that licensing deal varying according to release and format. It remains to be seen what Universal concludes once it has sight of the Warner arrangement.

Meanwhile, some of the Prince heirs not represented by L Londell McMillan are backing Comercia’s call for the Universal recordings deal to be rescinded, while also demanding an investigation into the conduct of the bank that was handling the Prince estate’s affairs when the big deals were done, The Bremer Trust. It, of course, like McMillan, insists that all the deal negotiations with Universal were fair and done in the best interests of the estate.