Could Prince Deal Signal Artist Power in Contract Negotiations?

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Over the past few decades, many fans here in Miami have enjoyed the music of Prince, from “Purple Rain” to “Musicology.” While it may not surprise many that the artist continues to create music, the terms of his new contract may have some wondering whether it signals a shift in how the industry and other entertainment contracts may be shaped in the future.

Near the end of May, Kobalt Music Group announced that they had agreed to a new contract with Prince to release his new music as well as other artists’ music produced by Prince. However, the bigger news is that as part of the deal, Prince will retain ownership and control of his work – an important factor in today’s growing internet music market. Typically, record labels have contracted to own or partially-own an artist’s music, which gave the companies the right to direct how the music gets used.

Because of this traditional approach to ownership, Prince’s new deal does not fit the mold of typical music and recording contracts. Prince certainly has had his fair share of negotiations, having once changed his name to only a symbol during a previous disagreement over his musical rights. Still, the fact that the artist was able to retain ownership shows the potential bargaining power of certain artists and may be an indication of a new approach to contractual agreements for those in entertainment.

Of course, not all artists come to the bargaining table with the sustained, successful career touted by Prince. There are many factors to consider when working on an entertainment contract, and understanding one’s strengths and weaknesses can go a long way to crafting the best possible contract. For example, an artist or group will need to consider where they are in their career – are they an unknown band or a re-emerging force – and whether the record company has already slipped its hand by promising certain things. Preparation is vital to obtaining a contract that benefits both parties, a lesson Prince must have undoubtedly learned in his many years in the business.

While the effect of Prince’s new deal may not be apparent at this time, those seeking music and recording contracts in Florida may want to take heed of his story to help ensure their needs – whether it be the retention of ownership or increased exposure – are met in the finalized contractual agreement. Either way before signing your agreement it is recommended that you have a music lawyer present to make sure you are getting the best deal.

Source: Reuters, “Prince reigns over own music releases in new deal,” Paul Casciato, May 20, 2013

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