by Alexis Taylor
Special to the NNPA from the Afro-American Newspaper
Prince has a message for new artists eager for a record deal: “Don’t sign.”
According to National Public Radio, Prince’s comment came during a meeting with selected journalists in his Minneapolis hometown for the 2015 National Association of Black Journalists Convention.
“Record contracts are just like — I’m gonna say the word – slavery,” said the Grammy Award winning singer-songwriter, as he discussed the music industry at his Paisley Park Studios. “I would tell any young artist…don’t sign.”
No recording of the artist’s statements exist, according to NPR, as devices that could take picture or video were banned from the studio. Nonetheless, artists are sounding off about the controversial statements.
“Unfortunately, I believe that today’s artist should avoid signing a contract with any label,” said Kevin Powe, Jr., a governor with The Washington, D.C. Chapter of The Recording Academy, which leads advocacy issues for the organization. “Artists are now intellectually capable of doing everything a record company used to do for an artist.”
Powe said that social media has made the entire world accessible, freeing artists “to do and say whatever their heart desires.”
Aside from voicing disdain for record labels, Prince also railed against music streaming services, both of which he sees as middle men taking money from artists who should be in control of their own music, money, and brand.
“Once we have our own resources, we can provide what we need for ourselves,” said Prince, who waged a turbulent war in the 1990s against Warner Bros. Records.
During that time, Prince performed as a Warner Bros. Records artist with the word “slave” written on his face. He further protested by changing his name to a symbol with no pronunciation. In an interview with Rolling Stone, Prince said the symbol was “adopted as a means to free myself from undesirable relationships.”
In the end, Prince lost the rights to his own famous catalogue and the stage name.
“People think I’m a crazy fool for writing ‘slave’ on my face,” Prince told Rolling Stone. “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.”
In 2014 Prince re-signed with Warner Bros. Records, regaining the rights to his catalogue, along with more control over his art and the business of his music.
In July, Prince fans using streaming services like Spotify were cut off from their supply of his work. As the artist continued his efforts to control distribution of his music, Prince videos have also been removed from Vevo and YouTube.
Prince will release his new album, “HitNRun,” Sept. 7 exclusively on Tidal, a streaming service created by Jay Z that pays artists directly.