The single “The Most Beautiful Girl In The World” was released in February 1994 by NPG Records and distributed by Bellmark in the US and Edel elsewhere, after an agreement with Warner Bros. allowing Prince to release a song independently. Prevented from releasing another original song, Prince put out several different versions of The Most Beautiful Girl In The World, some so different that they could be considered separate tracks on the The Beautiful Experience EP.
Just a few days before the release of Come, an album released by Warner Bros. under its contract with Prince renewed in 1992, the album 1-800 New Funk got its release on NPG Records. The album is a compilation of mostly-unreleased music largely written and produced by Prince, recorded by him and others from his camp (Mayte, The NPG, Madhouse, The Steeles, Minneapolis, Margie Cox, Nona Gaye, George Clinton, Mavis Staples), some of which had previous releases on Paisley Park Records. The compilation, distributed by Edel, works as a presentation for the label and the booklet showed images that could have been intended as album covers for each artist.
Warner Bros. Records, who had agreed that Prince could appear as a guest on the album (on Love Sign), did not authorize the song as a single under his new name (see Love Sign single page for details). In subsequent months, two previously released albums by Paisley Park Records, The Voice by Mavis Staples and Hey Man... Smell My Finger by George Clinton received a re-release by NPG Records with a different track sequence and/or artwork.
Gold Nigga by The NPG was also re-released with a song missing compared to the 1993 edition. These albums were produced in small quantities and available mainly through the phone service 1-800 New Funk and The New Power Generation Store which also offered other products related to Prince.
Except for the single releases of Standing At The Altar by Margie Cox and a MPLS by Minneapolis that was only available through the 1-800 New Funk phone service, no album by these artists were released. The third Madhouse album 24 remains unreleased, as are the projected albums (if there were any) with Nona Gaye and The Steeles. The only new album that materialized with the artists of 1-800 New Funk is Child Of The Sun by Mayte, released the following year by NPG Records, once again with a distribution deal with Edel.
Like for Come, the NPG Records label does not appear on The Black Album, The_Vault... Old Friends 4 Sale, the Girl 6 soundtrack album (published under the name Prince) and Chaos And Disorder (published under the moniker). Those albums were delivered by Prince to fulfill and end his contract with Warner Bros.. He did limited (if any) promotion and said publicly that they were "contractual obligation" or "recorded before the name change" (although it was not always the case). Since he did not own the masters of the songs, he did not support those records, sometimes preventing fans from buying them.
The Gold Experience (and subsequent singles) would be the exception as he strongly believed in the success of this album. This was the first record released conjointly by NPG Records and Warner Bros. Records and the last until 2014 with the releases of Plectrumelectrum and Art Official Age under a newly signed 2014 deal with Warner Bros.. But after 15 months of touring and promoting The Gold Experience and the second NPG album Exodus, which was distributed only in Europe by Edel), Prince himself had moved on to other projects, and didn’t do much for the album when it was finally released.
Pressing, distribution deals and master ownership
Freed from contractual obligations to Warner Bros., Prince signed a promotion and distribution deal with the major label EMI. This agreement allowed Prince to keep the master tapes, the copyright and benefit a larger share of the royalties. Being the owner of the Paisley Park Studios, Prince could assume the recording costs, while the label would only be responsible for the manufacturing and the distribution and receive a fee for each copy sold. Prince would later duplicate this type of agreement with other major labels on other occasions: with BMG Entertainment (Newpower Soul), Arista (for Rave Un2 The Joy Fantastic), Columbia Records (Musicology) , Universal (3121) and Warner Bros. Records (Art Official Ageand Plectrumelectrum). The Rainbow Children was distributed by the independent label Redline Entertainment while Because Music would distribute Lotusflow3r / MPLSound /Elixer in parts of Europe. Some stand-alone singles would also be released after a P&D agreement (Rock And Roll Love Affair and Screwdriver with the Swiss label Purple Music) or as an exclusive release (Fallinlove2nite with Epic).
Through NPG Records, and without a major label interfering with the creative or marketing process, Prince released as many albums as he wanted. Emancipation was his first release after his contractual obligations with Warner Bros. ended, and the first triple album of new music released by a major artist, ten years after Warner Bros. refusal to release Crystal Ball (which evolved into the double album Sign O’ The Times released in 1987).
His first album to be released and distributed independently of any record label by NPG Records was also a triple album, and also named Crystal Ball. This collection of outtakes from the vault was initially only available through phone pre-order 1-800 New Funk. Chain-store deals were made to distribute the triple album with The Truth album included in the package. Those who ordered the album by phone or online (via Love4oneanother.com ) received a fifth disc, Kamasutra, an instrumental album by The NPG Orchestra. Other records delivered independently to stores include Prince’s first live album One Nite Alone... Live!, and his final albums Hitnrun Phase One and Hitnrun Phase Two.
During the second part of the nineties, Prince saw the Internet as a way to release his music and created a website to stream live material and original songs. In the early 2000s, members of the NPG Music Club had access to songs released monthly, and digital albums (Xpectation, The Chocolate Invasion, The Slaughterhouse, C-Note), exclusive physical albums or singles that weren’t sold elsewhere (Rave In2The Joy Fantastic, One Nite Alone...).
Other ways of distributing music without the help of a major label were explored by Prince and NPG Records in the 2000s: In 2001, during the Hit N Run Tour and the Prince: A Celebration, singles pressed independently were sold and weren’t available physically elsewhere. Other albums pressed and distributed by NPG Records solely were given to audience members of the Musicology 2004ever Tour and 21 Nights In London residency, or to newspapers (Planet Earth and 20Ten) as a promotional tool. A live album (Indigo Nights) was only available for purchase with the 21 Nights book.
With a low-key or limited release and unconventional ways of distribution, many of Prince’s albums were not eligible to chart or went unnoticed by the large public. Only albums released jointly with a major label (Emancipation, Rave Un2 The Joy Fantastic, 3121) were certified by the RIAA reaching 'gold' status. Emancipation was certified platinum because each of the three discs was counted separately. Billboard and Nielsen Soundscan changed their policies of counting album sales with the distribution of the Musicology album during Musicology 2004ever Tour. After this album, musicians are required to offer fans different ticket prices, one including the album and one without if they want their CDs distributed at concerts counted as sales.
All in all, Prince has released more studio albums (21) during the second half of his career with NPG Records under his own name, than during the Warner Bros. and/or Paisley Park Records era (18), including two triple albums plus four live albums. He also released 3 ’solo' albums under the moniker The NPG via his independent label (Two of them, Exodus and Newpower Soul, being more or less seen as "Prince" albums).
NPG Records artists
While Paisley Park Records has released 24 albums by more than 15 different artists during its 8 years of existence, not more than ten albums were released by other acts on NPG Records between 1993 and 2016. The list of the artists associated with NPG records includes: Jacob Armen, Chaka Khan, Graham Central Station, Mayte, Liv Warfield, Bria Valente, Támar Davis, Andy Allo and Judith Hill. Prince was heavily involved with most of the albums released by NPG Records, the only exceptions being Jacob Armen’s Drum Fever (released in Europe in 1995) on which he did not appear, and Liv Warfield’s The Unexpected on which he wrote only two songs. On all the other NPG Records releases, Prince wrote, played on and/or produced all of the songs. Like most of the albums released by Paisley Park Records, those records did not gain commercial success. Only Chaka Khan’s Come 2 My House charted (as was Bria Valente’s Elixer, but this album was sold with Prince’s albums Lotusflow3r and MPLSound).
The first President of operations for the label was Levi Seacer, Jr., former bassplayer and guitarist for The New Power Generation. He resigned in 1994.
The name of his successors in this position, if any, between 1994 and 2012 are not known. Trevor Guy was named president of the label in 2013 and remained at this position until 2016.