Legendary musician and pop star Prince passed away over two years ago, and for most of that time his estate has been in court with Jay-Z’s company Roc Nation, which operates the Tidal streaming service.
Now, an agreement has been reached between the Prince estate and Roc Nation after the judge on the Minnesota case advised both parties that it was in their best interests to negotiate an agreement and end their litigation.
The announcement included a notice that a new album of unreleased material would be produced in 2019 to stream exclusively for 14 days on Tidal. Downloads will be available after seven days and a global physical release of the album will follow.
“I’m very pleased this is resolved and we get to honor the relationship between Prince and Tidal with this album,” said Troy Carter, music adviser for Prince’s estate.
Jay-Z is said to be selecting songs for the new album while working in conjunction with the estate on the final product. “Our only goal is to share Prince’s music with his fans as he wanted,” said Jay-Z.
In 2015, Prince selected Tidal as a partner to debut what would end up being his final studio albums: Hit n Run Phase One and Hit n Run Phase Two, which debuted in September and December of that year, respectively.
Legal problems between the Prince estate and Tidal began after Prince died of an accidental overdose on the painkiller Fentanyl on April 21, 2016 at the age of 57.
In a lawsuit, NPG Records claimed Tidal streamed some of Prince’s songs without permission. The suit said that Tidal only had rights to stream songs from Hit n Run, but they were streaming music from Prince’s Warner Bros. catalog, including his biggest album, Purple Rain.
The Hit n Run agreement for 90 days of streaming with Tidal came after Prince had already pulled his music from Spotify and other streaming services.
This new agreement concludes the unresolved legal matters between Jay-Z’s Roc Nation/Tidal and the Prince estate, and the new album they will produce does not involve music covered by earlier agreements with Warner Bros.
Considering that the attorney fees were already in the millions, the judge in charge of the probate case advised both parties to settle, and they did. No financial details of the agreement were disclosed.
The value of Prince’s estate has been estimated at $200 million, but that does not include a full valuation of the music said to be in Prince’s vault. In the 2015 BBC documentary Hunting for Prince’s Vault, filmmaker Mobeen Azhar confirmed that the treasure exists. “There’s a wealth of material in there, songs that were never released and two feature length movies,” he said. Azar claims there are so many unreleased studio recordings that the estate could put out an album a year for the next 100 years.
Former Prince tour manager Alan Leeds said that Prince recorded all of his concerts and they could put out a box set of 10 CDs of concerts from different phases of his career.
Susan Rogers, Prince’s former recording engineer, told Azhar that she started the Prince vault in 1983, collecting and storing tapes of his unreleased studio music, and there were 2,000 unreleased songs in it by the time she left in 1989.
Warner Music Group co-owns rights to the music produced between 1978 and 1996, and new agreements would have to be made before those releases can be streamed.
Leeds told Azhar that Prince, known to keep tight control over every aspect of his career, once laughingly said, “I’m just going to burn everything in the vault one day.”