The Purple Reign Over Record Labels Lives On

JourneySherman, Features Editor

Prince—was an artist and visionary in more ways than one. He left an imprint on the music industry that will never be forgotten. He was a force—a movement—a one man army that had the power to revolutionize music. Some crowned Prince as some kind of supernatural being; some felt a metaphysical connection with his work. The rest knew him as the guy who could really play and made it out of his hometown. Many had no idea that Prince would still be shackled and bound to the label that first signed him at eighteen, forty years after the ink dried.

Prince’s depiction of his time under contract as “indentured servitude” led many other artists to speak out as well. His portrayal of record contracts being synonymous with slavery forever changed the way music labels were seen. Over twenty years ago, Prince went as far as writing the word “slave” on his face during performances. Artist Kid Cudi is currently signed under Republic Records, but also worked alongside Kanye West’s label G.O.O.D. Music until he publicly announced he would no longer work with Kanye’s label. Today, artists confide ill-feelings towards their record company on social media outlets such as Twitter. In 2014, Prince showed his support to Jay-Z’s streaming service Tidal by releasing his music onto this outlet almost exclusively.

 He acted fearlessly against corporations that could easily destroy his career and take what little he owned. This type of public confrontation between artist and their record label was unheard of and therefore shining a light on the free spirit of a true artist  Through numerous efforts Prince finally reclaimed ownership and rights to his music. In fact, many speculate Prince’s name change to a symbol was a way to wiggle out of legal bindings with his record label, Warner Bros. Whether it was purely philosophical or a matter of finding a way around his contract is still up for debate. Prince established an on again off again relationship through co-ownership of his own labels—the first would ultimately fail and be replaced by NPG (or New Power Generation). Other artists have also found themselves in bondage after simply putting pen to paper as well. He battled his overbearing record label with everything to lose. Prince wanted to challenge their mentality, “We get all the money and you get all the fame.” This attitude stung more than any amount of money taken from him ever could. It was the fact that a corporation owned him from the top of his head to the soles of his feet. Compensation was a key factor in Prince’s unhappiness, but it wasn’t money he was fighting for—it was freedom.
He believed in the spirit of artistic individualism and self-reliance. Even after his death, Prince’s purple reign over the music industry will live on.

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