In one of his first dealings as an advisor to the Prince estate, Spotify executive Troy Carter is helping negotiate a deal that could give one major streaming service exclusive rights to one of the late pop star’s unreleased concert films as well as rights to make a documentary about the film, sources tell Billboard.
The lucky streaming service isn’t likely to be Carter’s employer, though: the estate is talking to a range of Spotify’s rivals including Apple Music, sources say.
The potential multimillion-dollar deal, which hasn’t yet been completed, could be the latest prize in the competition among streaming companies, a battle that has been ratcheting up lately as top players shell out millions for exclusive content that can help them stand out from the pack.
On the table is a film of Prince’s Aug. 3, 1983 performance in Minneapolis where he debuted several of the songs released on the soundtrack to his 1984 movie Purple Rain, plus additional footage that a buyer could use to produce a documentary about the making of the film, sources say. The storied show at Minneapolis’s First Avenue nightclub was a surprise gig billed as a benefit for the Minnesota Dance Theatre, with a set list that included “Let’s Go Crazy” and “Purple Rain.”
Warner Music Group, which owns the rights to the Purple Rain soundtrack, is separately releasing an expanded edition of the album in June, which will include a 2015 remastered version of the original album; a second disc of rarities and previously-unreleased tracks from Prince’s legendary vault; a disc of single edits, b-sides and extended versions; and a concert DVD from a March 30, 1985 performance by Prince and the Revolution at the Carrier Dome in Syracuse, New York.
While record labels have generally shied away from limiting new songs and albums to a single streaming service in hopes of reaching as many fans as possible, label executives have been happily selling streaming services the exclusive rights to other types of content, such as documentaries and short videos. Some executives say the offers for exclusive documentary videos about their artists now often top $1 million, sums that have climbed significantly from a year ago and can net labels and acts a significant profit. Among Apple’s recent purchases are the exclusive rights to stream a documentary about Sean “Diddy” Combs, premiering June 25.
A documentary on Norway’s tropical-house producer Kygo will also debut exclusively on Apple Music next month. Patrick Moxey, president of Sony Music’s electronic-music division and founder of Kygo’s Ultra Music label, said the surge in documentaries among streaming services is bringing “our artists to life as a three-dimensional experience,” while helping broaden their audiences after a years-long lull in visual content.
“It helps introduce artists to a different demographic,” said Moxey.
Carter’s willingness to negotiate such a deal with his company’s competitors amid the heated battle for streaming subscribers suggests that he is — as per his obligation to the Prince estate — prioritizing the estate’s interests over his own as Spotify’s global head of creator services. He joined Spotify last year after having managed acts from Lady Gaga to Meghan Trainor at his company the Atom Factory.
Carter declined to comment; representatives from Apple Music and Warner Music Group declined to comment.
Carter’s performance so far in his new advisory role is a welcome change to some of Prince’s heirs and their attorneys, who in recent court filings have expressed concerns that the estate’s earlier advisors — Prince’s former attorney L. Londell McMillan and entertainment executive Charles Koppelman — had conflicts of interest that may have resulted in missed opportunities for the estate. Those range from an allegedly mismanaged tribute concert in Minneapolis in October to a $30 million licensing deal negotiated by McMillan with Universal Music Group that the record company may now seek to void, sources say. McMillan has denied those allegations.
McMillan and Koppelman lost their advisory roles when Comerica Bank & Trust replaced Bremer Trust as the estate’s special administrator in late January, but Mr. McMillan is still acting as a business advisor to Prince’s two half-sisters, Norrine and Sharon Nelson, and one of his half-brothers, John Nelson.
On Wednesday (May 3), lawyers for Prince’s other half-brothers, Omarr Baker and Alfred Jackson, and his sister Tyka Nelson filed a memo opposing the other three heirs’ motions to quash subpoenas made to McMillan for information on his interactions with both the heirs and the music industry while serving as an advisor to Bremer Trust, according to court documents. The filing alleges that Mr. McMillan generally “acted in a manner inconsistent” with the estate’s interests. McMillan said the allegations were baseless and false.