Hugely popular musician passed away yesterday aged 57
As the world mourns the loss of Prince, Legal Cheek recalls the time the global superstar once changed his name to an unpronounceable symbol, such was his disdain for contract law.
The strange decision — highlighted yesterday on Twitter by lawyer and journalist David Allen Green — dates back to 1993 when Prince fell out with his then record label, Warner Brothers. Having released a host of successful albums, the hugely popular musician grew increasingly frustrated with his contractual obligations.
According to reports at the time, Warner Brothers wanted him to release fewer tracks to avoid market saturation. His label argued that this would allow it to promote his work more effectively. Unfortunately Prince didn’t agree.
In a bold but completely useless attempt to escape his contractual constraints with Warner Brothers, the star changed his name to a symbol (pictured above). Others at the time gave Prince more credit and argued that this was actually just an attempt to annoy his label. Whatever the reason, Prince remained bound by the contract.
It was shortly after this that media started referring to the musician as “The artist formerly known as Prince”, due to the symbol being unpronounceable.
RIP Prince – innovator in music and, somewhat less successfully, in contract law.
— David Allen Green (@DavidAllenGreen) April 21, 2016
Making a spate of public appearances with the world “slave” written across his cheek, Prince for the remainder of the contract made it very clear how unhappy he was. Reluctantly fulfilling his legal obligations, the singer fired off a series of subpar albums and lacklustre tracks, much to the annoyance of his dedicated fan base.
Then suddenly in 2014 — with all apparently forgiven — Prince revealed he had put pen to paper once again with Warner Brothers. The deal was to oversee the re-release of his classic album Purple Rain, which coincided with its 30th anniversary. But perhaps more importantly — and lucratively for Prince — the agreement saw him regain ownership of all his previous master recordings that had previously been under the control of Warner Brothers.
Prince died yesterday at his Paisley Park estate in Minnesota, aged 57.