A King’s Ransom for Prince : Artist Signs Record $100-Million Contract With Warner


Eat your hearts out, Michael Jackson and Madonna.

Prince signed what’s believed to be the largest recording and music publishing contract in history on Thursday--an estimated $100-million, six-album deal with Time Warner Inc.’s Warner Bros. Records and Warner Chappel Music.

Unlike Madonna’s and Jackson’s estimated $60-million-plus multimedia deals, Prince’s contract reportedly allows him to pursue film, TV, book, video and merchandising agreements elsewhere.

“We are extremely satisfied with the deal,” said Gilbert Davison, president of Prince’s Paisley Park Enterprises. “Prince has been with Warners since 1978. It’s nice to know that they still see him as such a valuable asset.”


Davison negotiated the pact with Paisley Park Vice President Jill Wills and Los Angeles entertainment attorney Gary Stiffelman. Representatives for Prince and Warner declined to discuss details of the contract, which has been in the works for more than a year.

But sources close to the talks said the entertainer is guaranteed an estimated $10-million advance per album--three times his previous fee and twice as much as Jackson or Madonna receive. The deal also includes a 25% royalty rate on every record he sells.

While Prince’s popularity peaked in the 1980s with the release of the “Purple Rain” film and soundtrack, sources said Warner expects him to branch into other musical areas, such as film soundtracks and artist development. The deal also allows Warner to recoup some of its advances if Prince’s sales dramatically decline.

Prince’s old Warner contract, which has been renegotiated several times since 1978, will reportedly be extended to include one more album in addition to the five he already owes. The first album Prince will deliver under the deal is slated to be released Oct. 20.

Under the new agreement, Warner Bros. will pay about $20 million to restructure Prince’s existing record label, Paisley Park Records, and will become an equal partner in the venture. The Minneapolis singer, musician, composer and producer will also be given his own office on Warner’s Burbank lot and a vice president’s title.

Warner and Prince will also establish another joint venture record label, which will focus solely on releasing street music singles.


Prince was paid an additional $20-million advance as part of a separate publishing portion of the deal, sources said. Under the agreement, Warner will be given administrative rights to distribute original compositions from Prince’s extensive Controversy Music catalogue, over which the artist retains complete publishing control.

Prince and Warner/Chappel Music have also established an as-yet unnamed joint venture music publishing company to promote the works of other songwriters Prince discovers.