More than two decades after Prince wrote “slave” on his face to protest his contract with Warner Bros. Records, the artist has come to an agreement with the company. Under the new partnership, Warners will release previously unheard material and a digitally remastered, deluxe 30th anniversary edition of his 1984 soundtrack to Purple Rain with more projects in the works. The agreement is also advantageous to Prince, as he now has ownership and control over the master recordings of his Warner Bros. catalog. “The financial terms of the agreement were not disclosed,” a Warner Bros. press release said.
The artist commented, “A brand-new studio album is on the way and both Warner Bros. Records and Eye are quite pleased with the results of the negotiations and look forward to a fruitful working relationship.”
“Everyone at Warner Bros. Records is delighted to be working with Prince once again: he is one of the world’s biggest stars and a truly unique talent” Warner Bros. Chairman and CEO Cameron Strang said in a statement. “We are also very excited about the release of new and remastered music from one of his greatest masterpieces.”
In 1992, Prince signed a lucrative deal with Warner Bros., but their relationship suffered when the label would not put out his music at the pace he wanted. In 1993, he changed his name to an unpronounceable “love symbol” and scrawled the word “slave” on his face. Warner Bros. then dropped its distribution deal with Prince’s Paisley Park imprint, putting it out of business. The Artist, as he was then known, put out his single “The Most Beautiful Girl in the World” on an indie, which Warner allowed and subsequently put out records culled from the Artist’s vaults, releasing albums under both the Prince name and symbol. By 1996, the Artist had secured a new distribution deal with Warner rival Capitol and put out the triple-CD Emancipation.
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“People think I’m a crazy fool for writing ‘slave’ on my face,” he told Rolling Stone in 1996. “But if I can’t do what I want to do, what am I? When you stop a man from dreaming, he becomes a slave. That’s where I was. I don’t own Prince’s music. If you don’t own your masters, your master owns you.”
Beginning in 2013, in keeping with the decade-plus in which Prince has been putting out music on his own accord, the artist has been teasing a new album by leaking new music via Twitter like “Da Bourgeoisie” and, in a rare (and funny) television appearance on Arsenio, “FunkNRoll.” In February, he played himself on an episode of The New Girl, and the next month, he issued a single of the tune he sang on the show, a duet with the TV show’s Zooey Deschanel titled “FallInLove2Nite.” He also debuted songs from an album titled Plectrumelectrum, which was recorded with his all-female backing band 3rd Eye Girl, in the wee hours of a February morning in a New York club.
“No one can play like this band,” Prince told Rolling Stone in March for the Spring Music Preview. “People are going to try, but they won’t be able to.” He said that the group played the album live, “no punch-ins,” and that they recorded until they got the take they wanted.