So, who owns the right to Prince’s catalog? TIDAL? Roc Nation? Universal? Anybody?
Several days ago, DMN reported that Jay Z and his company TIDAL never secured the rights to play Prince’s catalog on the service. According to the late singer’s estates, they don’t have the authorization to do so. This news could potentially cost Tidal millions in copyright infringement damages. To top it all off, Universal Music Publishing Group announced that it won an important bidding war. They are the exclusive worldwide publishing administrator for the entire Prince song catalog.
Not so fast, says Tidal. Joined by Roc Nation representatives, they claim a pre-existing contract granted Tidal exclusive streaming distribution rights to his catalog. According to Billboard, Tidal and Roc Nation are asking the court to allow its claim to stand. They also request “access to information concerning Bremer Trust’s business dealings in its capacity as Special Administrator” for his estate. This is an obvious attack against the late singer’s estate claims that Tidal does not own said rights.
Back in 2015, Prince pulled his catalog from every streaming service, except from Jay Z’s company. Some believed the move was done to get better rates from streaming services. His album HITNRUN came out exclusively on the service. In a statement, Prince said,
“After one meeting, it was obvious that Jay Z and the team he has assembled at TIDAL recognize and applaud the effort that real musicians put in2 their craft 2 achieve the very best they can at this pivotal time in the music industry. TIDAL have honored Us with a non-restrictive arrangement that once again allows Us to continue making art in the fashion We’ve grown accustomed 2 and We’re Extremely grateful 4 their generous support.”
According to court documents, Prince and Roc Nation entered into an Equity Term Sheet. This granted Tidal worldwide digital streaming rights for his next two albums. This includes HITNRUN, and the follow-up HITNRUN Phase 2, as well as a previous unreleased full-length studio album. Court documents show a second agreement, establishing “an exclusive worldwide distribution deal” between Tidal’s licensors and NPG Music Publishing.
According to TMZ, Jay Z offered $40 million to take control of Prince’s unreleased tracks. The late singer’s estate said no. The estate is allegedly upset with Jay Z’s company for releasing 15 Prince albums following his death. They acknowledge the HITNRUN deal. However, Jay Z failed to pay the $750,000 bill to close the deal.