05 May Time Magazine Speaks To Jeff Jampol About Future Of Prince’s Estate
Read the complete article at TIME.
What Prince left behind—in assets that can be easily valued, like his $27 million in property, and those that can’t, like his vault of recordings—will take far longer to figure. For an estate estimated by Forbes to be worth between $150- and $300 million, a missing will is surprising, given Prince’s history of tightly controlling the rights to his music, and doesn’t bode well for a speedy resolution. The estate of Jimi Hendrix, for one, was still immersed in a bitter battle 45 years after his death.
For now, a judge has appointed Prince’s longtime bank, Bremer Trust, to administer his estate. If no will is found, according to Minnesota inheritance law, Prince’s estate will be split among his sister, Tyka Nelson, and five half-siblings—assuming no one comes out of the woodwork claiming to be Prince’s secret offspring, or in some other way entitled to a piece of the pie. It is not unusual in cases like this for such claims to arise in abundance—a child would trump siblings in claims to the estate—and indeed, a company called Heirs Hunters International told Good Morning America that several people have already come forward, including a man born in the 1980s whose mother allegedly crossed paths with the musician more than once. The company has also identified potential heirs described as a niece and a teenaged grand-niece.
As for Prince’s 55,000 square-foot Paisley Park estate in Chanhassen, Minn., Nelson’s husband Maurice Phillips said the family plans to turn it into a Graceland-style museum. But such plans are a long way from fruition. Without a will that dedicates funds specifically for a non-profit museum or charity, the estate will be subject to up to 50 percent in taxes, significantly reducing the capital available to make it happen. And without a stipulation from Prince declaring his intention for the site, his heirs may disagree over whether to sell the property or use it for some other purpose.
Even in the absence of contested claims to the estate, divvying up Prince’s assets is a recipe for conflict: you can’t, after all, split a guitar six ways and expect it to retain its value. It often takes as long as a year to close the estate of a person of average means. And as has happened even with major recording artists who died with a will in place, like Michael Jackson, the scope and complexity of not just tangible possessions but intellectual property can see these cases drag on for many years.
The Fate of Prince’s Unreleased Music
Prince was spectacularly prolific, issuing 39 studio albums and 104 singles over the past four decades (not to mention EPs and live albums). But they may be merely the estuary to an ocean of purple songs. Musicians who worked with Prince have said he released less than half the songs he recorded. A former collaborator, Brent Fischer, told the Guardian Prince may have enough unreleased recordings to release an album each year for a century. But in the absence of clear instructions from their creator, will we ever hear them? And should we?
Jeff Jampol, president of JAM Inc., which manages the estates of Jim Morrison, Janis Joplin, Kurt Cobain and Otis Redding, believes we will hear some of the recordings at some point, but to release them hastily or without a broader plan to preserve Prince’s legacy would be a considerable disservice. “These songs are unreleased for a reason,” he says. “I’m guessing it’s some amalgam of, some were not finished, some he didn’t feel worthy of release, some he was saving for special projects, some he just hadn’t gotten to. How do you parse through all that? If it’s not up to the quality that Prince saw fit to release, are you not then doing greater damage to the legacy?”
To Jampol, focusing only on the music Prince left behind is reductive at best. “There’s really two ways to approach management of a pop culture legacy,” he says. “One way is to be like a vulture, circling around and looking for little islands of pink flesh you can pluck off and feed the machine today, which seems to be the way a lot of people think about it. I believe if you reanimate the body and bring the body back into the pop culture conversation, then the revenue streams come right along with it.”
It’s not just the revenue that’s at stake, of course—that is only of concern to those who stand to profit. How the music is handled is key to ensuring that Prince’s legacy is respected, preserved and introduced to a new generation of fans. To release unissued tracks without the context of a broader plan serves the diehards who will always clamor for more, but who are also already saturated—went to the concert, bought the t-shirt. The majority of fans are most interested in the hits, which unreleased songs, by definition, are not—at least, not yet.
Jampol compares the legacy of an artist to a dark, empty fireplace with a half-dozen matches lying on the mantelpiece. Prince’s recordings are one match; light it and hold it up to the darkness, and you get 30 seconds of illumination before a swift return to darkness. Invest in logs and kindling—a comprehensive understanding of the magic that connected Prince to his fans and a thoughtful plan to reintroduce it into the cultural conversation—and that match ignites a fire that burns bright and long.