Prince’s classic albums including “Purple Rain” on Sunday returned to major streaming services, bringing a new audience to the late pop legend who fought music industry convention. Hours before a star tribute to Prince at the Grammy Awards, Prince’s albums on Warner Brothers Records returned to all streaming sites including Spotify and the services of Apple and Amazon. Prince “We’re honored to bring back the work of such a legendary artist to music lovers everywhere,” Spotify, the world’s largest streaming site, said in a statement.
Prince had a famously turbulent relationship with record labels and the internet, which he accused of putting artists into virtual slavery. Late in his career the pop icon withdrew his catalog from all streaming sites except Jay Z’s upstart Tidal, which he credited with granting him the freedom to release music quickly.
Tidal remains the sole service to stream all of Prince’s works. The new streaming deal pertains only to the artist’s work on Warner — which he exited in the mid-1990s after writing “slave” on his cheek and changing his name to the unpronounceable “love symbol” to protest his contractual conditions. But Warner has Prince’s best-selling albums including “Purple Rain” and “1999” as well as two albums he put out simultaneously in 2014.
The streaming absence of Prince’s more recent works will likely be short-lived, as his estate last week signed a deal with Warner’s rival Universal for rights to works which the Purple One put on his own New Power Generation imprint from 1995. Prince, who died in April from an accidental overdose of powerful painkillers, had experimented with new ways to release music including through Tidal and by distributing a complimentary CD in European newspapers.
Prince’s estate has made clear it wants to do more to monetize his music, although financial details were not disclosed for the streaming deal. “Prince recorded his most influential and popular music during his time with Warner Brothers and we are deeply aware of our responsibility to safeguard and nurture his incredible legacy,” Warner chairman and chief executive officer Cameron Strang said in a statement.