Prince had a long and successful career with Warner Bros records. The records and singles, like Purple Rain and Raspberry Beret, that catapulted the musician to international stardom all appeared on the Warner Bros label.
The partnership between Prince and Warner Bros ended badly. Prince felt that the label was too controlling and resented the fact that he didn’t own the rights to his own songs, so he started referring to himself as a slave, adopted a weird symbol for his stage name, and became known as “The Artist Formerly Known as Prince.” Along the way, he released some uninspired music and his popularity dropped — and when his Warner Bros contract ended and he started to record on his own label, the damage was done. Although diehard fans, like Richard, might argue the point, most observers believe that Prince’s fight with Warner Bros had a lasting negative impact on his career and his musical significance.
This week, Prince announced that he was re-signing with the Warner Bros label, which will release a new album and an anniversary edition of Purple Rain. As part of the deal, Prince will acquire ownership of the master tapes he made during his prior tenure at the label, so he apparently achieved what he sought by his stand on principle.
I’ve always believed that it is ill-advised to burn your bridges — whether it is with employers, co-workers, or friends. Rather than sinking into acrimony that might forever poison your relationship with people, why not suck it up, behave professionally, and depart to your new position with class? You never know when the wheel might turn and you might need to work once again with the employer or colleague you publicly maligned.
Maybe Prince’s bitter split with Warner Bros didn’t affect his creativity — although it’s hard to imagine that the bad blood didn’t at least distract him from his music — but it certainly changed the public perception of him and made him the butt of a lot of jokes. Now that he’s back with Warner Bros, was it all worth it?