The untimely death of the multi-talented musician Prince has the media outlets abuzz and those fascinated by The Purple One awash in stories about his life. We at LPR are among his many fans. Delving into the mass of articles, we stumbled upon a September 1, 1977 article from the St. Paul Dispatch titled “18-year old Prince signs first record deal” that we wanted to share with all legal consumers.
As a budding artist, Prince signed a $100 million recording contract with Warner Bros., which according to the article, was one of the largest ever for a new act. The contract reportedly named Prince as the producer giving him artistic control, also unusual for a new act. While the contract at the time seemed beneficial to Prince, he would later regret entering into it.
According to an August 10, 2015 article on theguardian.com titled “Record breaker: a brief history of Prince’s contractual controversies,” years later, Prince and Warner Bros. disagreed over the release of his music. Because Warner Bros. owned his music and his name, Prince appeared with “Slave” written on his face and changed his name to a symbol. Prince’s name change, however, did not allow him to release music outside of the Warner Bros. contract, and he remained under contract until it expired.
While there are many reasons Prince will be remembered, for legal consumers his contract dispute with Warner Bros. should be a cautionary tale. What seemed like (and probably was at the time) an incredibly beneficial and lucrative contract, in practice turned out to be problematic for Prince. It is important to think critically and long-term when entering into any contract, as they are often impossible to break. After all, if it can happen to Prince . . . it can happen to you.
RIP Prince, and thank you for the amazing music and personal legacy you have left us.