Despite Prince’s attempts to control the release of his music while he was alive, the door to his vault(s) has been flung open a couple of times since the iconic artist’s death in April 2016. ABC News reported on the musical treasure trove just days after his passing, while Warner Bros., which had a contentious relationship with the late pop star, announced it would crack the vault open just a smidge for the release of “Moonbeams” last fall. The seemingly full contents of the vault became property of Universal, which won a bidding war with the other major record labels last October. But we’re still quite a ways away from yearly, posthumous releases of Prince’s music. According to The New York Times, a new conflict between Prince’s estate and Universal could keep the vault closed.
Universal thought it had picked up the rights to Prince’s vault as well as later albums, and was preparing “a timetable for obtaining American release rights for some of Prince’s early hits, after the expiration of existing deals with Warner Bros.” But now the music company says it was “misled and likely defrauded” by Bremer Trust, the Minnesota bank in charge of administering Prince’s estate. It seems some of the rights Universal paid for are currently in conflict with “those held by Warner, through a confidential deal that company signed with Prince in 2014.” That throws a big wrench in the music schedule works for Universal, so the label reportedly wants its money back—all $31 million of it. If the deal is undone, it’ll be a rare outcome for this kind of rights purchasing, and will presumably mean the vault will stay shut.