It appears Prince‘s music is once again in flux now that Universal Music Group wants to put an end to their $31 million deal with the Prince estate.
According to a partly-redacted letter sent to the Carver County District Court on behalf of estate administrator Comerica Bank, UMG has accused Prince’s former estate entertainment advisor, L. Londell McMillan, of “fraudulent inducement in connection with the deal.” UMG wants the court to rescind the whole agreement with a return of the money they paid.
This agreement between the Prince estate and UMG was announced in February 2017 by McMillan and Charles Koppelman. It granted UMG the exclusive licensing rights to Prince’s post-1996 catalog released by NPG Records. It also granted them rights to the unreleased material and the U.S. rights to “certain renowned albums” released during Prince’s peak years of 1979-1996. These “renowned albums” were distributed while Prince was still under contract with Warner Bros. Records, which means they’d be licensed to UMG at a later date. According to a press release at the time of the deal, this date could be as early as 2018.
However, UMG ran into issues as they tried to make things official. Questions started to surface on whether the estate’s camp had misrepresented the licensing rights it sold to UMG. For example, though the estate agreed to grant UMG rights to some of the Warner Bros. albums as soon as 2018, Warner Bros. rights on those albums won’t expire until 2021, according to sources. This would conflict with UMG’s timing since their separate merchandise and music-publishing deals with Prince’s estate aren’t guaranteed beyond the next five years, sources say.
McMillan denied any misrepresentation at the time of the February UMG and Prince estate deal, while Koppelman declined to comment. Both representatives have since been replaced by Spotify’s global head of creative services, Troy Carter. He said back in April that Prince’s estate would be “assessing all rights relating to Prince’s recorded music.”
Billboard sources say there will be a hearing scheduled later this month to determine UMG’s demand that the deal is rescinded.