My theory was always that Prince was waiting for some sort of Judgement Day. An asteroid would have worked, too. Plunged into darkness, Earth’s survivors would be disconsolate, driven to despair, reduced to their most basic, animal selves. And then Prince would emerge from The Vault, glowing purple (maybe he’d be hovering a bit, too) with a reel-to-reel tape of an unreleased masterwork from 1984 and it would return the earth to its former glory. There seemed to be no other reason for the most talented musician of the past half-century to hold crates of his own work back for that long.
Prince died before Judgement Day which, yes, is still a shock. And it didn’t take long for the question of his estate to come up. This morning, Prince’s sister, Tyka Nelson, confirmed that Prince left no will, leaving any number of questions unanswered.
The first is what will happen to the land that he owned. Between Paisley Park and the surrounding grounds he purchased for family members, Associated Press put that up at 27 million dollars. As for the rest of his money, well, everyone’s just sort of making that up as they go along. Yes, Prince made a lot of money touring and recording—he was an artist with an impeccable and unique business acumen. And, yes, a lot of that money probably got spent in places. So what’s left is somewhere between no dollars and many millions of dollars.
According to AP, Nelson “filed paperwork Tuesday asking a Minneapolis court appoint a special administrator to oversee his estate.” Bremner Trust, who advised Prince on a number of business decisions over the years, have been asked to step in to divide things up.
But where that leaves the stacks of unreleased music that Prince stored in the vault for the past few decades is no clearer. An interesting piece by Ross Raihala at the Twin Cities Pioneer Press took a look into the issue a couple days ago, citing a soon-to-be published Rolling Stone interview from 2014 in which he said he “didn’t always give the record companies the best song.”
Raihala’s interview with Leisl AuVante, a “longtime Prince friend” is the most revealing, though, and it’s worth taking a moment over.
“I know the loss of control of his work would make him very upset,” she said Friday. “He worked really hard to protect his music and the rights to his music. He was a pioneer in trying to maintain those rights with the advent of the internet. Now, who knows what kind of free-for-all it’s going to become? He would be disappointed by what’s probably going to turn into a circus.”
There were 2.3 million downloads of Prince songs in the last six days—that demand isn’t going anywhere soon. And the desire to crack the vault will only be stoked by the fact that there don’t seem to be any legal provisions in place to protect it. Prince spent a large chunk of his life trying to control his work and legacy; it would be a shame to forget that now he’s gone.