Prince Vault Recordings Damaged, Estate Reps Allege
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One consolation prize for having to live in a world in which
Prince’s body lay dead in the ground, it seemed for a time, is
that he’d live on through his music like no pop star ever had.
That’s because without its notoriously hawkish creator in the
way, his famed vault of unreleased recordings seemed poised to
be raided and distributed to the public. Rolling Stone
reported that employees of Prince’s studio compound Paisley
Park said Prince left behind
thousands of hours of unreleased material. BBC reporter
Mobeen Azhar descried its vastness to the New York
Daily News this way: “There is enough unreleased studio
material for him to put out an album a year for the next 100
But the road to release has been bumpy. We’ve seen some
posthumous releases of new old stuff—namely, “Moonbeam
Levels” was tacked onto last year’s hits compilation
Prince 4ever and a Deluxe Edition of Purple
11 previously unreleased vault tracks arrived in June.
Holding up future vault releases, though, was a botched
distribution deal the singer’s estate struck with Universal
rescinded when it was discovered that Warner Bros is to own
the rights of Prince’s pre-1996 music until 2021 (Universal was
led to believe it would be taking over such rights in 2018).
And now, there is word of further complication: According to
reps for Prince’s estate and Comerica Bank & Trust, which
is in charge of managing the estate, precious vault material
has been damaged due to improper storage. According to
distressing court documents
obtained by Variety:
During its inventory, the Personal Representative discovered
several indications of damage and degradation due to poor
humidity and temperature controls. It encountered cardboard
boxes that were adhered to shelves and had to be peeled off,
mold and water damage on the materials, rusting film
canisters, degrading film that smelled of vinegar (a sign of
acetate degradation), and evidence of water intrusion on
walls and ceilings in the vault and elsewhere. …
[additionally], Paisley Park is now a museum and open to the
public, further heightening security concerns.
Per Variety’s report, there isn’t mention of when this
damage took place—it seems hard to believe that Prince would be
so reckless with his own work, but the world is a weird place
that’s full of surprises. Sometimes it snows in April, ya know?
The documents, by the way, were drawn up in response to a
petition to remove Comerica as the manager of Prince’s
estate put forth by three of his heirs, Sharon Nelson,
Norrine Nelson and John Nelson. Their complaint cited the
failed deal with Universal as well as Comerica’s decision to
move the contents of the vault from Minneapolis to Los Angeles.
This kind of estate infighting is just the latest example of
the chaos that has characterized the attempts to run Prince’s
posthumous career. It’s also the latest example of something
that is stressing the fuck out of us Prince fans, who have our
hearts set on exploring worlds Prince hinted at but never got
around to showing us.