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Prince’s Death: The Music Industry Reacts

The music industry is in mourning over the news of Prince's death Thursday (April 21), leaving those whose lives he touched paying respect to the music icon.

The music industry is in mourning over the news of Prince‘s death Thursday (April 21), leaving those whose lives he touched paying respect to the music icon. 

Clive Davis, who released Prince’s 1999 album Rave Un2 the Joy Fantastic on Artista Records, released a statement on his social networks, saying, “Prince was peerless as a musician, performer and songwriter. He was clearly one of the all-time greats, always mesmerizing, magical and cutting edge. He was one-of-a-kind in every respect. To know Prince personally was to know someone kind and gentle, phenomenally brilliant and intellectually curious, with every bone in his body loving music.  The world of music has tragically lost one of its greatest defining members.”


Arnold Stiefel, chairman and CEO of Stiefel Entertainment, who manages Rod Stewart and managed Prince in the 1990s and worked with him on his 1990 film Graffiti Bridge, told Billboard, “His sheer talent, through all of its manifestations and eccentricities, kept us at the edge of our seats wanting more because when it was good, it could electrify and transcend any bumps that came before it.”

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Lisa Ellis, former EVP of Sony Music, echoed the sentiment of Prince’s brilliance. She told Billboard, “Prince was a modern genius. I had the great honor of working on his behalf when he decided to release ‘Musicology.’ There are countless days and nights spent with him discussing music, the industry and life in general. 

“I had the opportunity to tour the US with him in 2004/2005 and 20 nights at the 02 Arena in London. Everyone was at their best working with him. He loved music and he loved God. The doves are crying … There are few people that leave a permanent mark in culture or life. I will never forget the day I met him after coming up a secret elevator after hours at 9pm at Sony Music. He played me “Call My Name”. I promised him a Grammy that night. He won it. I can remember so many of his words and moments. He made everything count and matter. He was truly intentional with everything he did and said. Rest in peace my teacher.”

Cameron Strang, chairman & CEO of Warner Bros Records, issued the following statement: “Today, we lost one of the most revolutionary talents of our time. Prince’s untimely passing is deeply shocking, reminding us that unique artists who chart their own course and move culture are precious few and irreplaceable.

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“He leapt onto the scene in 1978 and it didn’t take the world long to realize that pop music had changed forever. He played the studio like an instrument and shattered the definition of live performance. He defined a new kind of superstardom, with a transformative impact not just on music, but on video, film, and style.

“Prince was the epitome of cool and mystery – an inspirational soul who created his own universe by bringing together different genres, races and cultures with a purity of sound and spirit unlike any other. His visionary gifts as a songwriter, vocalist, musician, performer and producer placed him in a league all his own.

“We are honored to have had Prince as a member of the Warner Bros. Records family during two eras of his astonishing career. We express our deepest condolences to everyone who loved him and join his family, friends and legion of fans in mourning his loss.”

Monte Lipman, who was president of Universal Republic Records when it released Prince’s 2006 album 3121, his first No. 1 album since the Batman soundtrack, told Billboard, “The biggest success is when you rise above any one genre of music and you become iconic. Essentially your name references the kind of music you make. Prince reached that category. You couldn’t suggest he was just an urban artist, a pop artist. So much of what he made was based in rock music. Everybody could touch Prince. Every format, every genre could touch Prince.”

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Sony Music Entertainment issued a statement, saying, “Prince was a revolutionary and an iconic artist. He boldly transcended every conceivable boundary of genre and expectation to make music that uniquely was his own and ranks among the greatest of his generation — or any other. This is a tremendous loss for lovers of music everywhere. The Sony Music family joins the world in mourning his passing.”

Burt Goldstein, former owner of Big Daddy, which distributed Prince’s One Nite Alone…Live!, N-E-W-S and a re-released Rainbow Children, said, “Prince was a gentleman… He was surprisingly respectful and polite. He helped me pick up business by telling George Clinton about my company.”

Michele Anthony, executive vice president of Universal Music Group, said, “I’m deeply saddened that we have lost one of our generation’s most special artists. Over the past 24 years, I have been honored to work with Prince in a number of roles and I can say without question that he was the most brilliantly gifted musician, performer, songwriter and producer. The level of perfectionism and meticulousness that he brought to each of his many disciplines was unlike anything I have ever seen — and I doubt very much that I will ever see again. He will be deeply missed by fans and artists alike.”

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Charles Koppelman, chairman and CEO of CAK Entertainment, co-founder of SBK Records and former CEO of EMI North America, said, “In 1990 or 1991, I got a phone call — when I was at SBK Records — from one of his people, who said Prince wanted to see me. About three weeks later, I went out to the West Coast and stayed at the Beverly Hotel. At the appointed meeting time, a limousine pulled up outside… Prince emerged from the car and came in. He said he was disenchanted with Warner Bros. and asked f I would put out his music on SBK. I told him I was excited about that because I was a big fan and knew we could do well together. I then asked when I could hear the music and Prince said, ‘You can’t hear the music. Nobody hears my music until I’m ready to put it out.’ I responded that ‘It’s my label and I put out music that I love and champion. I want to hear the music.’ He looked at me, stood up and walked out the door.

[Years later Koppelman, having moved to head up EMI North America, would release a three-disc album from The Artist Formerly Known as Prince.]

Geoff Taylor, chief executive of BPI & BRIT Awards, released a statement, saying, “Prince was hugely innovative and charismatic, and in resolutely following his individualistic path, he pushed musical boundaries in extraordinary ways to consistently break new ground. He skillfully fused different musical styles to create a unique sound that inspired devotion from fans and influenced a generation of artists. There is no doubting his place in the pantheon of modern music’s greats and we are deeply saddened to learn of his passing.”

Country singer Deborah Allen, who worked with Prince in 1987, said, “I was very blessed to have had the privilege to get to know Prince while working at Sunset Sound recording studios in LA. He wrote and produced a song for me called, ‘Telepathy.’ The time I spent with Prince was magical. He was truly a musical genius! To be in his presence was exhilarating and inspiring. Yet, he was just so down to earth and real at the same time. He treated me like a princess and with the utmost respect. He was such a gift to us all.

“I treasure every second I spent with him.  I still have the hand written lyrics he gave to me of our song, and the beautiful Christmas card he sent to me which simply stated, ‘Love God’… Which I know he did. He was a loving person and a very spiritual being. I know he is at home in Heaven right now.”

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Kevin Liles of KWL Enterprises and 300 Entertainment said, “I am at a lost for words. Prince has been such an inspiration to all of us. He was a musical and personal inspiration for me.”

Jermaine Dupri said, “I believed I could create full compositions because Prince was doing it. I created Southside Studio dreaming it would grow to be like Paisley Park. I added guitars to Usher‘s ballads thinking this is what Prince would have done. I’ve listened to his music more than anyone else. Me and Mariah [Carey] were with him one night and I just kept saying, ‘This is mufucking Prince,’ and he said, ‘Jermaine you gotta stop cursing!’ and he put me outta his room.” 

Guy Oseary, Madonna and U2‘s manager, posted a heartfelt tribute to Prince on Instagram, describing his own love for the artist that grew into a personal relationship” 


I met Prince when I was 12 years old. I asked for his autograph. He wrote “Love God”… My walls were covered with prince posters.. I lived in a two bedroom apartment with my dad and you could see my Prince posters from the street.. Many many years later I connected back with Prince.. And we have remained friends.. I called him a few years back with the idea of @Madonna and Prince going on tour together. I pitched it to Madonna and within a second she said “I like it, we can call it the Royalty Tour… The Queen and The Prince”…. I love the way she thinks… When I told Prince the idea he said: “the world isn’t ready for this, it’s too big”.. I always felt like one day I would pull it off.. @Madonna performed in #stpaul last year and Prince was generous enough to host us and perform for us after that show at his home #paisleypark .. He didn’t go on stage until 3am, and per usual the show performance was mindblowing.. He joined me this last New Years in St Bart’s and performed for my friends party at what will now be the last time I saw him.. It’s the one and only time I was able to actually work with him directly.. I won’t forget that electrifying performance.. Or the smile on his face that night.. And the love that he gave me.. He always treated me with kindness.. We didn’t always agree.. We would argue for hours… But he understood that I respected him dearly and cared for him.. I tried my best to help him on record business matters.. And even in his passing I’m here to help.. I would have done anything I could and wish I achieved more for him on his very clear issues.. The man had the strongest of opinions on contracts and on artists rights.. This photo was taken summer of 1999.. Yes.. “1999”.. You can see from the photo that I’m focused on one thing… Prince!!.. I have the original lyrics to “purple rain” on my wall and I was always too embarrassed to tell him.. Maybe he would think I was crazy for paying so much years back for those lyrics or maybe he would just take it off my wall and say “thank you, I was looking for this”.. Who would stop him?.. Not me.. Today not only will doves cry, we all cry.. You will be missed.. I love you.. Rest in peace..

A photo posted by Guy Oseary (@guyoseary) on


Tiffany Shlain, Emmy-nominated filmmaker and founder of the Webby Awards recalled honoring Prince with a Webby Lifetime Achievement Award in 2006. She said, “Prince was a brilliant pioneer who always busted new paths with music and technology. He embraced technology. New technology was a new medium for him to explore and connect with people. I will never forget seeing him perform. He was an electrifying artist who had such presence and power and artistry.

“I’ll never forget his five-word accept speech [at The Webby Awards]. His was my favorite one. It was ‘Everything you think is true.’ I think he was speaking his whole phi. He didn’t conform and he thought everything he did was on the right path.” Then he did an acoustic performance of ‘Don’t Play Me.’

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“He was one of the first really big artists to embrace technology to connect with fans. He was singular. He had a very clear vision. He was so good at so many different aspects of his craft.”

Paul WilliamsASCAP President and Chairman, said: “Prince was that rare artist who created his own musical universe and invited us all to experience it. His phenomenal talents as a songwriter, producer, musician and performer gave us an opportunity to witness true creative genius. He will be missed, but he leaves behind music that elevates us all, and for that we are forever grateful.” 

Ken Ehrlich, longtime Grammy Awards producer told Billboard, “He was very, very shy and very, very quiet. I’ve been to Paisley Park a couple times and I don’t ever remember him talking much above a whisper. Maybe that’s just the way he was with certain people, but he had this demeanor about him that was like a serenity, this kind of calm that he wanted to project. And what always amazed me was that he would project this calm backstage or wherever — he was cordial, but he was never effusive — and then when he got out on stage it was like, ‘That’s not the same person I was standing on stage with.’ That’s just what he was like. He would turn the switch on and off.”

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