There’s nothing subtle about this news.
As Napster recently announced “The rumors are true… music fans rejoice!”, Spotify plastered its bright purple advertisements on a New York City subway station, while iHeartRadio, Apple Music, and Amazon Music confirmed the news to music publications beforehand.
In what is being considered a ground-breaking move in the streaming industry, Prince’s music is all set to be launched on all streaming services – on the same day when a Prince tribute will be performed on stage at the 59th annual Grammy Awards in Los Angeles, California. This launch is the end to an 18-month drought, during which the singer’s back catalogue was exclusively available through Tidal, Jay Z’s subscription service.
Which brings us to the question – why was Tidal the only place where Prince’s music was available? It was because the singer himself had chosen to pull his entire catalogue from Spotify and all other mainstream streaming companies during the summer of 2015, which was in response to Spotify’s free streaming tier and in favour of the rights for artists. Now, however the late musician’s estate has signed new deals that will make his catalogue available everywhere once more, with all of his albums – from 1978 to 1996 now being available on all major streaming services.
The news is ironical, to say the least, especially since Prince was known for his championing of artistic control. Not only did he give up his own name to fight with his record company, he also openly targeted services such as YouTube for featuring clips of his music without his prior permission. In an interview in 1997, Prince once famously laid down his entire philosophy, saying “If you don’t own your masters, then your masters own you.”
Due to its artist-oriented business model, Tidal remained the only service which Prince approved of. Tidal, however, was far from modest while playing down its two-years of exclusivity, to the extent that Jay Z even bragged about it in a song once, “Prince left his masters where they safe and sound—we never gonna let the elevator take him down.” Additionally, the service released fifteen rare Prince albums on what would have been Prince’s 58th birthday, if he hadn’t sadly died on April 21 the previous year. Jeff Price, music entrepreneur and founder of royalty collection agency Audiam, said “Prince wanted control over his music. It was his. He wrote it and recorded it. His simple, reasonable request was to determine how it was used and how much he should get paid for that use.”
All said and done, it seems that the late singer’s estate managers might have defied the artist’s wishes due to the fact that his $200 million estate owes about $100 million in taxes.
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