Prince: “I don’t believe in contracts”
It took me a while to unearth this report that I wrote after attending a small press gathering with Prince at the Beverly Wilshire Hotel on December 13, 2005. I think it was the only time I got up close and personal with him. He looked exquisite, like a beautifully crafted artwork. He had just signed a new deal with Universal Records.
I asked him a few questions at the outset, and got a laugh with my first one:
YOU ONCE LABELED YOUR TIME AT WARNER BROS. AS SLAVERY. WHY ARE YOU JUMPING ABOARD THE BIGGEST SLAVE SHIP OF THEM ALL?
I don’t consider Universal a slave ship, first of all. Mostly the situation with Universal is similar to the one with Sony insomuch as that I give my own agreement. It wasn’t a contract. I don’t believe in contracts. I did my own agreement without the help of a lawyer and sat down and got exactly what I wanted to accomplish, the goals that I am trying to accomplish.
DID YOU SIGN ANY PIECE OF PAPER AT ALL WITH UNIVERSAL? OR IS THIS A HANDSHAKE DEAL?
Basically a handshake deal. But we do sign some agreements to ensure that business gets accomplished. I would challenge all artists, before they get into these agreements, to sit down and actually ask that every one of these things be explained to them, like free goods clauses, and digital rights, and ownership of masters, and that type of thing.
HOW LONG IS THE CONTRACT FOR? HOW MANY RECORDS?
[He held up his index finger to signify one. See photo above – he’s looking at me!]
Prince did not say very much after that, and I loudly pronounced the evening rush-hour trip to be a waste of time. Anyway, re-reading my brief story, is it any surprise that he died without a will? He took DIY to unfortunate extremes. His casual attitude towards legal formalities means his estate will enrich an army of lawyers and bankers for generations. This is the story I wrote:
PRINCE NEGOTIATES OWN DEAL WITH UNIVERSAL MUSIC
LOS ANGELES (Reuters) – Pop iconoclast Prince, who spent years clashing with the music establishment, has signed a recording deal with the world’s largest record company, proudly noting on Tuesday that he wrote up his own agreement without legal advice.
Universal Music Group will release his next album, “3121,” sometime next year through its Universal Records imprint, the parties said. A videoclip for the first single, the Latin-soaked ballad “Te Amo Corazon” (I love you, sweetheart), was released Tuesday, and shown to journalists at a news conference in a Beverly Hills hotel room.
Prince, 47, showed up briefly, accompanied by Argentine actress Mia Maestro, who stars in the clip.
His last album, 2004’s “Musicology,” was distributed by Sony BMG Music’s Columbia Records label, and given away free to fans who attended his comeback tour that year.
Most of his albums, beginning with his 1978 debut “For You,” were released by Warner Bros. Records, and the partnership produced such groundbreaking works as 1984’s “Purple Rain” and 1987’s “Sign O’ The Times.”
But Prince fell out with the label by the early 1990s, complaining that it could not accommodate his prolific output. He performed with the word “SLAVE” scrawled across his cheek, and his career waned as he went to such bizarre lengths as changing his name to an unpronounceable symbol. After splitting with Warner Bros. in 1996, he went the independent route, and distributed some albums through his Web site, selling a fraction of what he did during his heyday.
His deal with Universal covers one album only, he said at the news conference. He declined to discuss the financial terms other than to say, “They’re great.”
He said it was “basically a handshake deal” since he does not believe in contracts.
“I did my own agreement without the help of a lawyer and sat down and got exactly what I wanted,” he said, subsequently clarifying that some agreements were signed “to ensure that business gets accomplished.”
A statement announcing the Universal deal said Prince would return to the road next year. He declined to offer any specifics about the tour or the album, but said the new single was not indicative of the album’s overall sound.
NOTE: Unrelated to the above story, my gossipy rock bio Strange Days: The Adventures of a Grumpy Rock ‘n’ Roll Journalist in Los Angeles is available here. For more info, go to strangedaysbook.com
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