Prince announced Friday he has signed a new deal with his first record label, Warner Bros., that will see his most-famous work remastered, reissued and augmented by unheard material from his vaults.
Warner Bros. will give Prince the rights to the masters of his back catalog with the label, which stretches from his 1978 debut album “For You” through 1996’s “Chaos and Disorder” and includes all of his best-known works, including “1999,” “Purple Rain,” “Sign ‘o’ the Times” and “Diamonds and Pearls.” Warner Bros. will continue to manufacture and distribute the albums worldwide.
The new partnership “will open a veritable goldmine” and that it will start with a “digitally remastered, deluxe version” of Prince’s “Purple Rain” soundtrack to coincide with its 30th anniversary this year.
Warner Bros. signed Prince when he was still a teenager and helped usher him into worldwide stardom. But by the beginning of the ’90s, Prince had grown unhappy with the label and kicked off a very public campaign that included changing his name to an unpronounceable symbol, scrawling the word “slave” across his cheek and claiming Warner Bros. was limiting his artistic freedom.
The deal ended in 1996, but because Warner Bros. retained control of Prince’s masters — and stood to make money from their use — the Purple One has played hardball with the label. Not only did Prince not allow Warner Bros. to remaster or reissue his classic albums, he refused to allow his old music videos to air online. As a result, Prince’s most famous work has been difficult to access in the digital era of YouTube and streaming services.
There are hundreds of unheard songs from the Warner Bros. era that may now see the light of day, including everything from entire albums that were never released (“Dream Factory,” “Camille”) to dozens of professionally recorded concerts (including a March 1982 performance at the old Met Center in Bloomington).
Warner Bros. will also release new music from Prince. ”A brand-new studio album is on the way,” Prince said in the statement, “and both Warner Bros. Records and (I) are quite pleased with the results of the negotiations and look forward to a fruitful working relationship.”