Earlier this month, Universal Music Publishing Group announced that it had reached an agreement with Prince’s estate to become the worldwide publishing administrator for the late musician’s entire catalog, ending a bidding war that allegedly included a $40 million bid from Jay Z for the rights to Prince’s vault of unreleased music. (Roc Nation, Tidal, and Prince’s estate all deny that such a bid existed.)
Now, Billboard reports that Roc Nation and Tidal have filed court papers claiming exclusive streaming rights to Prince’s entire catalog as part of an pre-existing contract made before the musician’s death. The service was home to Prince’s two 2015 albums, HITnRUN Phase One and Phase Two, and released 15 previously unavailable Prince albums for his birthday this year. (TMZ reported that these releases were unauthorized, but it’s unclear at this point if that is true.)
Roc Nation and Tidal are claiming that they entered into two arrangements with Prince last year: one in July 2015 which allowed for the digital streaming rights to his next two albums (the HITnRUN duo) and one unreleased full-length studio album over a five year period in exchange for the promise to “not grant any digital music service anywhere in the world exclusive rights” to the Prince catalog; and another in August 2015 that allegedly established an exclusive worldwide distribution deal for Tidal that they would be able to “exclusively stream Prince’s entire catalog of music, with limited exceptions” for three years or until the full recoupment of the advance.
There’s a chance that the UMPG deal does not act in opposition to the supposedly pre-existing deals with Tidal, provided that UMPG does not grant streaming access to Apple Music, Spotify, and other competitors, but Roc Nation alleges, per Billboard, that the court has “refused to offer any information” on the negotiations surrounding the deal.