Will Prince's control of his music extend from the grave?

Fri Apr 22, 2016 7:49pm EDT
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By Steve Gorman

LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - The late pop star Prince was known in life as an artist fiercely protective of his intellectual property, but how much others may profit from his legacy, including a large body of unreleased songs, hinges on how astute he was in arranging for control of his music after death.

Questions about Prince's estate loomed on Friday, a day after his unexpected death at age 57. Sales of the iconic performer's albums surged, and platforms from satellite radio Sirius XM to MTV rushed to satisfy a sudden fascination with his music.

Some 230,000 albums and 1 million singles from Prince's catalog were sold in the United States alone on the day he died, according to BuzzAngle Music, which tracks daily music sales.

By comparison, folk-rock band the Lumineers sold 108,000 copies of its latest album, "Cleopatra," during the course of seven days as they topped Billboard's pop charts this week.

The long-term outlook for Prince's catalog depends on who ends up in charge of his estate and how much direction he provided before his death to govern his legacy, entertainment lawyers said.

Found dead of unknown causes at his home and studio compound in Minnesota, Prince is one of relatively few recording artists, even of his stature, believed to have possessed ownership of his master recordings and his own music publishing.

At stake are potential retail sales, licensing fees and royalties on music from more than 30 albums that have sold over 36 million copies in the United State alone since 1978, plus an extensive cache of unheard recordings said to be locked away in a vault.

The collection is believed to include an entire album he recorded with jazz trumpet great Miles Davis, said Owen Husney, who was Prince's first manager and teaches music business at the University of California, Los Angeles.   Continued...

Unidentified employees pause for a moment as they monitor fans outside of Paisley Park, U.S. music superstar Prince's estate in Chanhassen, Minnesota April 21, 2016.   REUTERS/Craig Lassig