Prince’s Classic Warner Bros. Catalogue to Hit All Streaming Services Today

Any true Prince fan has to feel ambivalent about the news that the Purple One’s classic Warner Bros. albums will hit all streaming services today.  According to a press release issued by the label, “Warner Bros. Records (WBR) has officially confirmed that Prince’s iconic WBR catalog will be available to stream across all digital services by the time the Grammy Awards begin today at 5 PM PT. The first hits will start to appear on services at 9 AM PT.”

Later in the press release they add:

“We’re also pleased to announce our plan to release the remaster of Prince’s most iconic album, Purple Rain, along with two incredible albums of previously unreleased Prince music and two complete concert films from the Paisley Park vault on June 9.

 “When we make any of Prince’s music available to fans – from the hits to unreleased gems – we are committed to upholding Prince’s high creative standards and we know fans will be thrilled when they hear these albums and see these films.”  

Dirty Mind front and back cover. Courtesy Warner Bros.

Dirty Mind front and back cover. Courtesy Warner Bros.

 When Prince signed his exclusive deal with Tidal in 2015, the decision to pull his work from other outlets and go with them was rooted as much in his politics as his desire to preserve the integrity of his work. In an interview with Ebony magazine explaining why he chose Tidal, he was quoted as saying:

“Tidal is sinking money into it and they need it. And my heart is always on because I want them to do well. [Beyoncé and Jay Z] have taken a lot of abuse, their family has. A historic amount of abuse between the two of ‘em. And when we win on this, none of us’ll gloat. He’s not the gloating type anyway. He’s slick with his. He says to brush the dirt off your shoulder.

“[Tidal has] a million-plus subscribers. Spotify has 10. So if you imagine a million people in front of you? That’s a lot of people. So you gotta talk to them and you getting ready to drop something and all of ‘em are gonna get it. What do you wanna say? How are you gonna move all of ‘em? Oh, now it gets interesting. It’s always going to be the peanut gallery and that’s all right.

“My thing is this. The catalog has to be protected. And some of our fans were actually disingenuous. Taking the time to get their playlists together and yeah, it’s gone. Now you got to actually go subscribe to get the music that you lost on Spotify. Spotify wasn’t paying, so you gotta shut it down.”

Prince at the Cobo Center, Detroit, 1980. Photo by Leni Sinclair

Prince at the Cobo Center, Detroit, 1980. Photo by Leni Sinclair

 So, while news that his music will be more readily available (including lot of previously unreleased material) is cause for rejoicing, it’s also bittersweet. His work deserves as wide and far-reaching an audience as possible. The world we live in – the parts that are lovely and bearable and life-affirming – was scored by his genius. But he was also clear as to why he felt the way he did about the recording industry at large and streaming services in general. Those who are new to his massive, visionary catalogue (or the completists who are missing a few things) are all in for a treat. But hopefully we all keep in mind the validity of many of his critiques even as we happily stream his shit.

Prince in Minneapolis, 1977. Photograph NC1 RobertWhitman 2014 WENN

Prince in Minneapolis, 1977. Photograph NC1 RobertWhitman 2014 WENN

Top photograph by  John Leyba, Denver Post/Getty Images