COPYRIGHT / CONTRACT
Recorded music, streaming
There is speculation that Prince’s catalogue will come flooding back to Tidal, as details of the dispute between Prince’s estate and Tidal, the music streaming service owned by the rapper Jay Z and a number if other artistes including , Beyoncé, Rihanna, Kanye West, Nicki Minaj, Daft Punk, Jack White and Madonna have surfaced.
In November, reports say that the Bremer Trust, the interim administrator of Prince’s estate, sued Tidal via Prince’s NGP record label and publishing business. The lawsuit claimed that Tidal’s deal with Prince, which was made prior to the superstars’ unfortunate death, gave Tidal the rights to exclusively stream his penultimate album and not his whole catalogue. Tidal and Rock Nation, also owned by Jay Z, claimed that oral and written agreements had been made between Prince and themselves for use of the catalogue.
In January, Tidal and Roc Nation filed a claim against Prince’s NGP and Bremer Trust. In this claim they alleged that it was agreed that Prince would deliver four albums, for which an advance was paid. ‘Hit and Run: Phase 1’ and ‘Hit and Run: Phase 2’, the superstars final two albums, were expected to be the first two albums to be delivered under the agreement.
Following Prince’s death, Roc Nation made contact with Bremer Trust to ensure that they were aware of the deals and agreements they had made with Prince. Roc Nation also sought to represent Prince’s musical catalogue on a continuing basis. However, as is often the case, the parties appeared to be far from reaching a deal, and ultimately ended up falling out in regard to what existing deals were actually in place.
Tidal and Roc Nation subsequently insisted on access to new contracts that the Bremer Trust were arranging concerning Prince’s catalogue, to ensure that the new contracts did not hinder the rights that Tidal and Roc Nation alleged that they owned. Although the Bremer Trust has not had to share these contracts with Roc Nation (as yet), the Judge overseeing Prince’s estate has ruled that Roc Nation does have a legitimate claim. The claim is backed up by paperwork which, according to Billboard, does in fact make good on the alleged four album publishing agreement. However, it should be noted that the merits of this claim are still to be fully assessed by the court.
The paperwork is significant as it puts doubts to Bremer Trust’s previous statements, which alleged that Tidal only had the one written agreement for the single album. However, Prince is likely to have done different deals with both Roc Nation and Tidal. It may turn out that many oral deals have been done and not written down. The impact and effect of this on Prince’s estate is unclear in relation to other deals made with Spotify and Apple Music.
Jay Z commented in an interview to Billboard that artists would be paid more by being streamed on Tidal than with Spotify, stating “Will artists make more money? Even if it means less profit for our bottom line? Absolutely. That’s easy for us. We can do that. Less profit for our bottom line, more money for the artist; fantastic. Let’s do that today.”
By Samuel O’Toole LLB (Hons) trainee solicitor at Lawdit Music