The Vault Where Prince Kept All the Good Stuff

The Gifts of Prince

I'm probably in the minority here, but none of this stuff should be released:

one place where those mourning Prince are split is over the contents of his vault. Prince fans have wondered about the vault for decades now, a BBC documentary by Mobeen Azhar heightened curiosity, and Prince’s death makes listeners even more eager to know what’s in it. Recent reports talk about as much as 2,000 songs, going back to nearly the beginning of his career.

Wired describes it this way:

Deep in the bowels of Paisley Park, the recording studio compound Prince built in Chanhassen, Minnesota, lies a room-sized vault. It looks like something you’d find in a bank, with a big wheel on the door and a spinning combination lock only a few people can open. The walls are lined with shelves, organized chronologically and bursting with unreleased recordings. The trove includes funk instrumentals, a rock power trio, jam sessions with Miles Davis. A lifetime’s worth of songs, videos, documentaries, and more.

On one side are Prince friends and admirers who think that the material should be left alone. Prince fought to have control over his career, warring not only with his record companies and music streamers, but famously changing his name in the ‘90s.

“Prince always did what he wanted to do,” Sheila E. said. “He had accomplished what he wanted to musically. He worked with whomever he wanted, and if he had wanted those released, he would have released them.”

Just because someone saves their artistic output doesn't mean they want it to be released. Whatever plan Prince had in mind, that plan is now gone along with him. If they can sort out the rights and release material in a respectable fashion, okay, then. I suspect what they're going to find is not the mind-blowing archive people make it out to be. I think it contains the stuff that Prince thought he should keep but not the stuff he wanted people to hear.

He was, famously, cash-strapped for many, many years. The fact that he didn't alleviate his problems by releasing material in the vault indicates to me that he didn't think it would have been commercially viable for him to do so.