Prince, the legendary musician who passed away on April 21, was notoriously protective of his music in the digital age. He was opposed to having his music on YouTube, and he thought the internet was disastrous for musicians looking to make money. That belief is why you won’t find much of Prince’s music on Spotify or Apple Music. If you want to listen to most of Prince’s discography, you’re going to have to do it the old-fashioned way.
That is, unless you had a subscription to Jay Z’s streaming service, Tidal. Back in September of 2015, Prince’s label NPG Records made a deal with Jay Z’s Roc Nation to stream Prince’s album HITnRUN: Phase 1 (TMZ erroneously calls it Prince’s final album, which was actually HITnRUN: Phase 2). But, according to TMZ, apparently Tidal overstepped its bounds and began streaming all of Prince’s major hits, including “I Wanna Be Your Lover,” “1999,” “Little Red Corvette,” “Cream,” “Purple Rain” and many, many more, starting on June 7, which would have been Prince’s 58th birthday. TMZ also reports that the list of songs streamed went on for three pages in the documents they acquired.
Now, NPG is suing Roc Nation for copyright infringement, and to block the streaming of all of Prince’s music, other than HITnRUN: Phase 1. According to the documents obtained by TMZ, there is no specific dollar amount for damages listed, but considering how well Prince’s albums sold after his death, it’s likely quite a lot. Ironically, one of Tidal’s biggest selling points was that it would compensate artists better than other streaming services.
The digital age has undoubtedly changed how musicians make money, and while Prince’s reaction to this sea change is understandable, new artists like Chance the Rapper and Francis and the Lights have learned to find new ways to make money off their art. An incident like this can only hurt the chances of Prince’s music entering the digital age.