Prince’s music catalog, which has long been carefully quarantined from much of the internet, is going to hit several streaming services this weekend, according to a report from Financial Times. FT spoke to people familiar with the plan, who said the music would appear on services like Spotify, Apple Music, and others.
As FT points out, Warner Music owns the licensing rights to all of Prince’s recordings released before 1996 — the year Prince left the label and began releasing music on his own. In 2014, Prince resigned with Warner in a deal that gave the label the rights to his music pre-‘96.
Prince’s post-‘96 discography, including unreleased tracks, will be sold in an auction held by Prince’s estate, according to FT. That bundle of music (which doesn’t even include major albums like Purple Rain and Sign o’ the Times) is reportedly getting offers of $40 and $50 million by labels like Warner, Universal Music, and Sony Music.
Owning the rights to these albums would be a big coup for a label. Prince is one of the most popular musicians of all time, and one of the last remaining streaming service holdouts (save for Taylor Swift). Despite his hesitance to trust most of these services, Prince had been a Tidal supporter from its inception. In 2015, he pulled his music from all streaming services except Tidal and Google Play, and even released his album HITNRUN exclusively through Tidal.
Since Prince died apparently without a will, it’s impossible to say what he would have wanted to happen to his music, especially the unreleased tracks now up for auction. Releasing creative work posthumously has always been ethically sticky, and Prince was notoriously stubborn when it came to unauthorized recordings, even once suing fans for uploading bootleg recordings of his concerts online. But last June, a judge ruled there was “an urgent need to begin monetizing Prince's intellectual property” due to impeding federal and state tax deadlines.
The release of the late musician’s music is rumored to coincide with the Grammy Awards, which will take place on Sunday night.