As we approach the anniversary of the unfortunate loss of Prince on April 21st, 2016, more turbulence comes from the Prince Estate in the form of a new lawsuit filed on Tuesday putting the breaks on the release of a never-before-seen Prince EP “Deliverance.” Fans have been awaiting the release ever since rumors have stirred over the past year.
The EP was supposed to be let out the day of his departure one year ago, April 21. We had one day left. One day. The single “Deliverance,” was already streamable, and presales for the release on Friday have already been issued; we were on the cusp. The tracks were recorded when Prince was an independent artist between 2006-2008, previously unfinished but done over by our main man George Ian Boxill, ex-engineer/right-hand-man of Prince. In the spirit of Prince’s status during these recordings and his love for the direct-to-consumer style, Boxill partnered with Rogue Music Alliance, an independent label, for the release.
The suit claims that Boxill has no right to release his music as per a previously signed contract. Namely, a confidentiality agreement that said that the works created between Prince and Mr. Boxill would remain “Prince’s sole and exclusive property,” and that Boxill would “not use any recordings or property in any way whatsoever.” That’s a pretty airtight couple of sentences. How will our hero get out of this one?
The reality is that just about everybody wants to hear this music, regardless of who it comes from. It’s understandable that his family and estate want to keep a secure grip on the rights to his life’s work, but Boxill believes that this is what he would want.
“Prince once told me that he would go to bed every night thinking of ways to bypass major labels and get his music directly to the public.” – George Boxill
Prince loved his fans, and what better way to show that love than to share his work? This kind of content, those curiosities from his unreleased catalogue, have been arguably the most anticipated releases yet. In reality, fans will most likely get these tracks eventually – it just feels right now like someone yanked the food out of our mouths right as we were about to take that first bite. We’re still hungry.
The rights to Prince’s music has changed hands a couple of times over the past year with no small amount of confusion stemming from the Estate, which is managed by Comerica Bank & Trust and Paisley Park Enterprises (which itself is Prince’s record label). The estate signed a deal with Universal Music Group late last year that secured for the company the rights to a large portion of Prince’s catalogue, including his fabled “vault.” UMG realized after the signing that some of the content they paid for was already owned by Warner Music from a previous deal! Word on the street is that UMG is considering legal action to recover their money or risk a kind of musical gang fight the likes of which haven’t been seen since West Side Story.
So who does have the rights? Apparently not Mr. Boxill. The lawsuit seeks a halt to the release of the project, a return of the master recordings and even a civil liability for theft. Good luck, George, and thank you very much for trying.