In light of music icon, Prince’s, untimely death, I felt it only appropriate and somewhat necessary to pay my respects to not only Prince, but to the host of musical power players that we have lost along the way. It’s always sad when our loved ones pass away. As consumers and lovers of music, we have had the privilege and pleasure of growing up with these music icons to a certain degree. Although we have not had the luxury of knowing them personally, we have been able to connect with them spiritually through their gifts of music. Music is one of the purest forms of expression and through it we are all united as one. Some artists (such as Michael Jackson, Prince, Bob Marley, Amy Winehouse and Whitney Houston to name a few) were able to foster that unity amongst us more than others, but every musician plays their part. They provide the soundtrack for us for this thing called life and we dance our way through it.
Some of our deceased stars managed to get into the real business of music while maintaining and pursuing their celebrity status. Michael Jackson purchased the ATV portion of the Sony/ATV catalog for $41.5 billion back in 1985 and his estate recently sold it back to Sony for $750 million to cover some debts of the Jackson estate. The Jackson estate still kept its stake in EMI publishing and maintained its rights in all of Michael Jackson’s masters and all of the songs that he wrote. Prince was another music icon who managed to maintain control over his music via his publishing rights. Prince thoroughly policed where and how his music was distributed, if at all. Prince wasn’t hung up on the financial aspects of publishing; he was more concerned with his artistry and maintaining control over it, so much so that he handled the negotiations himself personally and directly.
Both Prince and Michael Jackson set examples for other musicians in that they understood that the real money to be made (and creative freedom to have) in the music business is from maintaining ownership of your music, more specifically the publishing rights. Sony tried countless times to purchase the ATV catalog back from Jackson who was able to control the rights and revenue stream to songs by hotshots like the Beatles, Bob Dylan, Eminem and Taylor Swift. Prince was his own one man publishing entity and just about everything he was a part of was owned and controlled by him. Michael may be rolling in his grave knowing his estate sold the catalog back to Sony when he fought so hard to keep it, and Prince may be rolling in his knowing he is no longer able to control his artistry, but they were at least able to benefit from the fruit of their labors while alive and can rest assured that their loved ones will be able to now in their passing.
There’s a big concert going on in heaven. Rest in peace: Prince, Michael Jackson, Whitney Houston, James Brown, Phife Dawg, Maurice White, David Bowie, Scott Weiland, Sean Price, BB King, DJ E-Z Rock, Frankie Knuckles, Chris Kelly, Bobby Rogers, Chris Lighty, Maria Cole, Donna Summer, Chuck Brown, Lisa “Left-Eye” Lopes, Aaliyah, Don Cornelius, Etta James, Heavy D, Vesta Williams, Nick Ashford, Amy Winehouse, Nate Dogg, Teena Marie, Gregory Isaac, Jimmy Dean, Bob Marley, Teddy Pendagrass, Luther Vandross, Elvis Presley, Dolla, Eartha Kitt, Lou Rawls, Janis Joplin, Isaac Hayes, Rick James, Old Dirty Bastard, Barry White, and whomever else I omitted from the list. You are surely missed. Gone but never forgotten, because your music continues to live on.
Lerae Funderburg, Esq. is the Managing Attorney at Funderburg Law, LLC, an Atlanta based entertainment law firm. Lerae has almost 10 years of experience in entertainment law in both music law and film law. As an entertainment lawyer and blogger, Lerae keeps her viewers and subscribers up to date with entertainment law news, especially in the areas of music, copyright law and trademark law. If you are local to Atlanta, call and set up a consultation! She would love to hear from you!