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Paisley Park Records
When Warner Bros. Records and Prince stepped up their arrangement in 1985, it would grant him his own label, an imprint within the Warner Brothers 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 Bros. looking after the promotion and distribution aspects (as WEA Records outside the US) and Paisley Park Records handling the recording output. This required Prince to handover the master tapes to Warner for slotting into their vast distribution and marketing network, which in later years proved a true bone of contention for Prince. Being a subsidiary, Paisley Park Records would remain under the auspices 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 first 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 track’s all-encompassing name was that of both his record label and new studio complex, which at this time Prince’s architect was drawing up its blueprints. The label took up an office 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 to Prince and his side-projects but other artists also, however it’s 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 in existence, Paisley Park Records signed a total of twenty artists, the main 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 songs passed from Prince or no involvement at all, were: Mazarati (signed 1986, receiving 1 Prince penned track), Taja Sevelle (1987, 2 tracks), Dale Bozzio (1988, 1 track), Good Question (1988, no Prince involvement), 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 (1989, who aided in the promotion of the Japanese leg of the Lovesexy Tour, 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 saw anywhere near the success achieved by the label’s main artist, Prince himself. Although Prince would have the final say which artists were taken on, some had been signed to Paisley Park Records by his management firm Cavallo, Ruffalo & Fargnoli without Prince’s knowledge or consent, this became a major factor to Prince firing the firm in January 1989.
Throughout 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, 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 for Prince’s promotional activities – which in effect imposed a limit to the number of albums he was able to release per year and the number of shows he was allowed to perform. This set the 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 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 cancelled its distribution deal, in effect shutting down Paisley Park Records.
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