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Paisley Park Records
When Warner Bros. Records and Prince stepped up their arrangement in 1985, they granted him his own label, an imprint within the Warner Brothers publishing machine. The terms of this arrangement permitted Prince to set up a standalone label for his own purposes and with full autonomy to sign other artists. This new label, Paisley Park Records, was founded on 1 February 1985 as a joint venture, with Warner looking after the promotion and distribution aspects (as WEA Records outside the US) and Paisley Park Records handling the studio output. It required Prince to handover the master tapes to Warner, to slot into their vast distribution and marketing network, in later years this aspect proved a true bone of contention for Prince. Being a subsidiary, Paisley Park Records would remain under the yoke of Warner, yet Prince could credit his output to the new label which he was allowed to run as it were an independent outfit.
The inaugural release under Paisley Park Records was Prince and the Revolution’s Around The World In A Day, on 22 April 1985, which in typical Prince fashion contained a specially written song Paisley Park bearing the name of the new label. The name was to be shared with both the new record label and studio complex, which at this time Prince’s architect was drawing up its blueprints. The label took up offices at the then unfinished Paisley Park Studios on 1 May 1987, and using the postal address 1999 Avenue of the Stars. Eric Leed’s brother, Alan Leeds, was appointed its President of Operations (holding the post until 1991).
Paisley Park Records was run as a label in its own right, in that it did not exist to serve exclusively the interests of Prince and his side-projects but other artists also. However its second and third releases that followed in quick succession were the debut album for The Family, released on 12 August 1985, with Sheila E’s Romance 1600 following on the 26th. In its eight years of existence, Paisley Park Records signed a total of twenty artists, its key signings being: The Family (signed 1985), Sheila E (1985), Madhouse (1987), Jill Jones (1987), Mavis Staples (1988), The Time (1990), Eric Leeds (1991), Ingrid Chavez (1991) and Carmen Electra (1993).
The remaining signings, whose albums received at least one song written by Prince or no involvement at all, were: Mazarati (1986, receiving 1 Prince penned track), Taja Sevelle (1987, 2 tracks), Dale Bozzio (1988, 1 track), boy duo Good Question (1988, no Prince involvement), new wave combo The Three O’Clock (1988, 1 track), George Clinton (two albums 1989 and 1993 – the latter receiving 2 tracks), Tony LeMans (1989, no Prince involvement), Kahoru Kohiruimaki (singer who aided the promotion of the Japanese leg of the Lovesexy Tour, was signed in 1989 and got 2 tracks), and T.C. Ellis (1991, no Prince involvement). Projects for Cat Glover (signed 1989) and Rosie Gaines (1992, getting 3 tracks) were planned but were never released.
But of course, no act achieved nowhere near the success of the label’s main artist – Prince himself. Although Prince would have the final say which artists were taken on, some act had been signed to Paisley Park Records by his management firm Cavallo, Ruffalo & Fargnoli without Prince’s knowledge or consent, which became a major factor to Prince firing the firm in January 1989.
Over the years, Warner had been subsidising Paisley Park Studios, paid in cash advances to cover Prince’s mounting production costs. In their attempt to recoup this investment, when renewing their contract with Prince in 1992, its terms granted Warner equal say in the running of Paisley Park as well as set funding levels on Prince’s promotional activities – which in effect limited the number of albums he was able to release per year and the shows he was allowed to perform. This set a rot which put Prince and Warner’s relationship into a spiral and an ultimately damaging and deeply embittered public dispute in which Prince demanded back the ownership of his music. Worried about the level of control the contract transferred to Warner, Prince founded a new label NPG Records in 1993, an entirely independent outfit, which by that summer also issued its first release. The resulting breakdown of trust in the relationship was irreparable and on 1 February 1994 Warner Brothers announced that it had terminated their distribution deal, a move which in effect shut down Paisley Park Records.
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