Prince - fight with label

In the 1990s, Prince’s war with his record label was monumental. Prince argued, quite publicly, that his record label owned and controlled his name as well as any music released under that name. Prince passionately believed that artists must remain the owner of their own art. This belief resulted in Prince refusing to use his name in any of his productions, creating the now-infamous “Prince_logo.svg” as his symbol, being referred to as “the Artist Formerly Known as Prince”, writing the word “slave” on his face during shows and appearances, and putting out half-hearted music just to fulfill the terms of his record contract.

In addition, it has been reported that Prince made hundreds of hours of music, which has been described by Rolling Stone magazine as some of Prince’s best work, but, for whatever reason, has never been released by Prince. Prince’s vaults of music also supposedly contain at least 50 fully-produced completed music videos and a documentary about Prince videotaped by Kevin Smith. Prince apparently told Rolling Stone magazine that his vaults contain complete Revolution albums, two Time albums, and one Vanity 6 album.

For whatever reason, Prince did not want this music, or even the videos or documentary, released. If Prince had died with a Will, he could have directed his Executor(s) to never release the contents of his vaults, or at least instruct his Executor(s) on what to do with the contents of his vaults. Yet, without a Will, there is no such instruction or prohibition.

Instead, with the federal government wanting its taxes, and the lawyers and accountants wanting their fees, and the eventual inheritor(s) (whether it be his child(ren) or his siblings) wanting the rest, everyone is going to want to make sure that his estate makes as much money as possible. Even if that means releasing the music, the videos, the documentary, and whatever else is contained in the vaults, which is likely not what Prince would have wanted.

The real tragedy of Prince’s death is that for someone who so passionately believed that an artist should control the fate of his own art, by not signing a Will, or in any other way protecting his estate, Prince left the fate of his own music and productions to the whim of financially-motivated people who may not have ever really cared about him.

Prince’s legacy will certainly continue, but not according to Prince’s wishes.

About Jeffrey A. Asher

Jeffrey A. Asher is admitted to practice in NY and CT. Mr. Asher is a member of the New York State Bar Association, where he serves on the Executive Committee of the Elder Law and Special Needs Section, the Executive Committee of the Trusts and Estates Law Section, is co-chair of the Legislation Committee of the NYSBA Elder Law and Special Needs Section, is co-chair of the Committee on Elderly and Disabled of the NYSBA Trusts and Estates Law Section, and is Chair of the Elder Law Section of the New York County Lawyers’ Association. Mr. Asher recently appeared in the HBO Documentary “Bobby Fischer Against the World: Fight for the Fischer Estate.” Mr. Asher also is a legal commentator on Trusts and Estates and Elder Law matters for Court TV, TruTV, and CNN Headline News.

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