In another turn of events in the protracted battle over the rights to Prince’s unreleased music, a court has voided the 31-million-dollar deal between Universal Music Group and Prince’s estate, according to Billboard. UMG had agreed to purchase the massive amount of unreleased music in Prince’s vault back in January, but almost immediately following the purchase the music giant began to have second thoughts and sought to find a way to cancel the transaction.
Another source of conflict was that Warner Bros. Music still owns the rights to a good portion of Prince’s back catalogue, including many of his groundbreaking albums that made him into a superstar in addition to a portion of unreleased recordings residing in Prince’s famous “vault.” UMG will still retain the rights to administer Prince’s music publishing and the rights to merchandise, which further clouds what has already been a confusing and lengthy legal battle.
The main concern UMG had with the transaction was the apparent devaluation of Prince’s estate, meaning that the $31 million was too steep of a price to pay and would not likely result in a profit for UMG. In addition, the rights to Prince’s back catalogue will not expire from Warner Bros. until 2021, which would appear to hurt the timeline UMG is working with as their own publishing rights will expire before then. Seeing as the most profitable tracks from Prince’s vault are from recording sessions from 25+ years ago, the longer it takes to release the less profit can be made.
Since the music icon’s death in April of 2016, there have been a series of legal proceedings to determine the fate of his vast swath of unreleased music in his vault. It remains to be scene who will end up purchasing the rights to this music but it would appear that Warner Bros. are on the list of potential buyers.