A slab of Prince’s music may yet return to the bargaining table after the late artist’s estate recommended a judge void the multi-million dollar licensing deal done with Universal Music Group.
The major music company had already asked a Minnesota court to rescind its US$31 million pact struck in February. But what appeared to be a messy split now looks like an almighty pile-up.
In the latest filing from Comerica, the bank notes that Warner Bros. Records claimed that the estate’s special administrator, Bremer Trust, “sold rights to UMG that WBR already holds.”
Comerica says that it “cannot unequivocally assure UMG or the court that no overlap exists” with respect to the rights included in the mega-deal and a hearing to clarify the situation has been set for May 31.
Universal Music Group had already taken legal steps to disentangle itself from the arrangement agreed upon in February, which was thought to give the major exclusive licensing rights to Prince’s post-1996 catalogue and the U.S. rights to “certain renowned albums” from his Warner Bros. era (1979-1996).
As with so many details relating to Prince’s estate in the wake of his death, there are many question marks about precisely what music UMG would get access to for its lump of cash and, according to Billboard, it’s unlikely potential suitors for the catalogue would bid anything like what UMG stumped up.
As the deal went sour, UMG went on to blame former estate entertainment advisor L. Londell McMillan for misleading them over the terms of pact, which McMillan denied with the admission, “There are parties that are new to the Prince estate and unfamiliar with the music industry. They may need time to figure it all out.”
Few music groups have the means to pull off a deal of this scale. UMG recently reported its sixth successive quarter of growth with revenues of 1.284 billion euros, up 12.7%, in the first quarter ending March 31, 2017.