Jim Carroll

Music, Life and everything else

Happy days are here again for Prince

He’s not the only heritage act about to benefit from Section 203 of the US Copyright Act 1976


Fri, May 2, 2014, 09:50


Sound the OMG klaxon right away! Prince is in the news and he’s happy as he returns to the label he left in an almighty huff a couple of years ago.

How this came about is very telling about the current state of the record business. Prince recently signed a new deal with Warner Music, the label which he accused of not respecting his artistic what-have-you and which led him to changing his name to a squiggle. It’s the latest iteration in what has been a complicated and occasionally confusing mesh of deals.

So what changed our favourite Minneapolis musician’s mind? Perhaps it was the fact that the label was prepared to give him ownership of his previous albums and the sort of creative control over his work which he always craved.

While it means more money for Prince – Billboard say that he’d have earned $1.7 million in 2013 from his back-catalogue instead of the estimated $657,000 in royalties he would have been paid – it also sets a very interesting precedent, especially with regard to ye olde Section 203.

We have written here before about how this section of the US Copyright Act 1976 allows musicians who sold the rights to their music to terminate those arrangements after 35 years, provided they give advance notice to the labels. That law came into being in 1978 which means a whole slate of acts are now looking for their albums back.

This, naturally, scares the bejaysus out of the labels who’ve grown used to doing the dog with these back catalogues. Hence, why Warners and Prince sat down and played nice. You can bet similar such meetings complete with the posh biscuits will be had with reps of such acts as The Police, The Eagles, Billy Joel and all the others who’ve asked for their albums back. Another good pay-day for the heritage acts.