Prince Rogers Nelson was known for hits like When Doves Cry, Little Red Corvette, and The Most Beautiful Girl in the World. He became quite the controversial figure for the lyrics of Darling Nikki, which spurred the use of “Parental Advisory: Explicit Lyrics” warnings on album covers. And who could forget Purple Rain, a film that showcased Prince’s artistic genius?
There’s no denying that Prince will go down in history as one of the greatest and most innovative artists of all time, but top-tier albums aren’t all we have to thank him for. In 1996, Prince shared an open letter on his old website, which talked about his problems with the music industry. His biggest gripe was the fact that he did not own the very music he created, and he sought to change that.
Art Belongs to the Artist
In the early 1990s, Prince signed a $100 million contract with Warner Bros. It would require him to write six albums for the recording company. But tensions rose when Prince started to question his recording executives about his music’s ownership rights. This feud lasted nearly 25 years, with Prince regularly referring to himself as a slave of the company. Eventually, Warner Bros. relented, giving Prince the legal rights to his music.
But it didn’t end there. Prince was also wary of companies like Apple and Google, who profited from selling music online. He felt that these large corporations were exploiting artists and their music. This was echoed by Taylor Swift in 2015. She spoke out against Apple Music for their policy that artists received no royalties for their music during a three-month trial period. This posed a problem to record executives who owned smaller labels, as the trial period meant their artists would lose out on download income. What this shows is how this continues to be an issue for artists even in the digital age.
Paisley Park Records — Made for Artists
Paisley Park was founded long before Prince’s disputes with Warner Bros. It served as his venue for creative freedom. There, he worked with artists he viewed as protégé’s, guiding them through the messy music industry. Of course, there are plenty of costs to consider when starting a record label, including the procurement of recording gear, manufacturing costs, as well as marketing and legal fees. And here, Prince had some help from his parent label. It was an ideal arrangement, as Prince had autonomy over which artists were signed to Paisley Park, while Warner Bros. handled distribution and promotion. He was free to create the music he wanted.
Regrettably, Paisley Park Records closed down in 1994, when Warner Bros. ended its distribution deal amid their feud with Prince. Even so, Prince fought for the rights to all his artists’ recordings. Some of the artists who made music with Paisley Park Records include Carmen Electra, George Clinton, and Mavis Staples. Now, Paisley Park has been reopened as a museum, showcasing where Prince recorded and produced some of his most famous songs.
Prince’s fight for artists to own their music has paved the way for musicians today. Though there is still much to be done to make the music industry a fair playing field, there have been leaps and bounds in its improvement. And we have Prince to thank for that.
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Article contributed by Jenny Roxy
Solely for thegirlsattherockshow.com