April 8, 2022, 4:23 p.m.
Musicians and artists are often not afraid to break boundaries.
In fact, you could say it comes with the territory to surprise people and do the unexpected.
And it’s safe to say that no one expected Prince, one of the world’s biggest superstars, to change his name into a symbol.
It was at the height of his fame that he chose not to be called Prince, but rather “The Artist Formerly Known as Prince”, which baffled and bewildered fans and critics alike.
A far cry from the R&B virtuoso’s music, the name change is arguably what Prince is most remembered for.
But what were the reasons? Here’s everything you need to know:
When did Prince change his name?
Prince revealed that he changed his name in 1993.
Although Prince is immensely famous, he hadn’t had a hit album since he wrote the 1989 soundtrack. Batmanwhich reached No. 1 on the Billboard Album Charts.
In the years that followed, critics frequently gave his records mixed reviews and nothing seemed to quite capture the fanfare of his earlier work.
Then, Prince announced that he was changing his name to a “symbol of love” associated with his music, which people initially thought was just a catchy title.
Did Prince change his name to a symbol for a publicity stunt?
Not enough. There was a far bigger reason for Prince changing his name than just to stir up the media.
But it resulted in a lot of negative press as you can imagine, not only for Prince himself, but also for his label Warner Bros.
As one of Warner Bros’ top artists and selling millions of records worldwide, their biggest asset which received unwanted attention almost overnight must have given the label some concern, especially more that it did not meet the kind of commercial success of the precedents. years.
Prince was clearly committed to the name change, as he called himself “The Artist Formerly Known as Prince” or simply “The Artist” until his re-emergence in 2000.
Did Prince change his name to a symbol because of a dispute with his record label Warner Bros?
The only reason Prince changed his name was because of a long-running dispute with Warner Bros.
Throughout his career, Prince has been incredibly prolific – from his debut in 1978 for You Until 1993, he released an album every year except 1983.
He had a vault of 500 unreleased songs and projects, as well as over 50 unused music videos at the time of his death.
And that’s what Warner Bros saw as the problem: they had too much music to release, and they were worried about over-saturating the market with too many Princes. In retrospect, it seems almost unbelievable.
Alluding to the loss of love between the artist and the label, Prince performed regularly with “SLAVE” written on his cheek. But completely changing its name upped the heat a notch.
In a statement at the time, the caption read: “Prince is the name my mother gave me at birth. Warner Brothers took the name, trademarked it, and used it as their primary marketing tool to promote all the music I wrote.
“The company owns the name Prince and all the associated music marketed under Prince. I just became a pawn used to make more money for Warner Brothers.
He made it very clear that: “The first step I took towards the ultimate goal of emancipation from the shackles that bind me to Warner Brothers was to change my name from Prince to (symbol).”
Changing his name was a brave and bold way to get out of his contract, so he had more control over what music he released and when.
What impact did Prince have by changing his name to a symbol?
Initially, this caused the disruption Prince was hoping for, but it took him years to get out of his contract, even after agreeing to release a Greatest Hits compilation.
In the long run though, the “love symbol” (a supposed mix between male and female love signs) helped start a conversation about representation and identity, given that Prince retained an androgynous personality. throughout his career.
The notorious name change, regardless of the negative publicity it received, solidified Prince’s position as pop music royalty.
It was one of the most publicized examples of a musician standing up to major label executives for artistic control and personal freedom.