Weeping guitars: Prince’s estate sues Jay Z’s company over music streaming on Tidal

Remember the days when digital music first became a Big Deal?

Once Apple got in on the game with its iTunes Music Store, and you could buy music online without having to put on your bathrobe to leave home, it was truly a Game Over situation. Physical music sales began to decline, the music industry didn’t know what to do with itself, and Steve Jobs laughed all the way to Hawaii when he would go on vacations in the personal jet that Apple gave him one year.

There were some holdouts. Led Zeppelin. AC/DC. Garth Brooks. Each of those musicians held out for years before allowing their music to be sold on iTunes or another service. And, of course, the biggest “get” of all was when The Beatles finally resolved their remaining differences with Apple and put their music online in 2010.

Now that more and more music services are moving toward subscription-based streaming, it’s becoming imperative for those companies, and musicians, to work out deals. But with all the options out there, and with all the music that is available, there remained one last major musician who didn’t allow his music to be legally streamed anywhere. As iconoclastic as this musician was, it was probably no surprise that he would keep his tunes from being available on streaming services as long as possible.

This was, of course, the one, the only, Prince (R.I.P.).

Prince died earlier this year. And, as is too often the case when a rich, awesome, one-of-a-kind genius dies, there is now the inevitable lawsuit over his artistic products.

You see, Prince’s songs had just started to be available for streaming over the Tidal music-subscription service. Tidal is owned by a company headed by musician Jay Z, or, as we like to call him, “Beyonce’s Husband.” Everything seemed fine and good between Prince’s estate, Tidal, and Jay Z’s Roc Nation company.


Prince’s NPG Records filed a federal lawsuit on Tuesday in Minneapolis, alleging that Roc Nation streamed Prince’s music on Tidal without getting Prince’s permission before he died. NPG says Prince only gave Roc Nation the rights to stream one of his albums on the Tidal service, and that other songs such as “1999” and “Little Red Corvette” began streaming on Tidal about a month-and-a-half after Prince’s death.

Needless to say, Roc Nation thinks NPG doesn’t have its facts right. Last week, Roc Nation said in a court filing that before he died, Prince gave his OK for his songs to appear on Tidal.

Confused? Well, Prince was known for baffling his fans and audiences by never allowing himself to be pegged too long in any one musical style. It was probably only a matter of time before the lawsuits and a lot of “he said, he said” accusations and finger-pointing began.

The courts will decide. In the meantime, we can all agree on how great Prince was. Especially when he burned down “While My Guitar Gently Weeps.” Do not try to imitate. You can’t.

Photo: Prince performs at the Forum in Inglewood, Calif., on Feb. 18, 1985, Prince’s NPG Records is suing for copyright infringement after it says Jay Z’s Tidal music service streamed Prince’s songs without permission after the pop icon’s death earlier this year. The lawsuit was filed in Minneapolis federal court on Tuesday, Nov. 15, 2016. (Liu Heung Shing/AP)


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