Prince's new record deal -- Is the pop star really worth more money than Madonna and Michael Jackson?

Is Prince really worth more money than Madonna or Michael Jackson? Last week, the Purple One signed a contract with Warner Bros. Records worth a potential $100 million, which is more than the most recent pop mega-deals, Madonna’s $60 million contract with Warner and Jackson’s $60 million pact with Sony. True, Prince doesn’t sell nearly as many albums as the other two superstars (see below). But his real value to Warner will probably be as a producer, songwriter, and creator of movie soundtracks (like Batman, not his Graffiti Bridge, which quickly collapsed in 1990). To that end, Warner named the Minneapolis rocker a vice president of artists and repertoire and gave him an office in its L.A. headquarters.

Sounds pretty incredible, right? Sounds is the key word. While the new contract’s $10 million advance per album is a record, it’s only good if Prince’s new album, right now titled only as a male-female symbol but rumored to be called Love, sells at least 5 million copies after it’s released on Oct. 20. That stipulation holds true for all six albums to be produced under the contract. If an LP sells less than 5 million copies, Prince does not automatically get $10 mil for the next one. A new fee will have to be negotiated.

Although Prince has averaged nearly 4.1 million in sales per album, what are the odds that he can grab 5 million next time around? Only three of his 13 LPs have sold more than 5 million, while each Madonna and Jackson album has easily sold that amount. Moreover, Prince didn’t even get a signing fee for the contract, as Jackson did, to the tune of $4 million. So it’s fair to say that Madonna and Jackson are still the Queen and King of Pop, respectively, and if Prince aspires to rock’s most sparkling jewels, he’s going to have to earn them.

Historical Figures
Here’s how worldwide album sales measure up (in millions) for the pop-music stars with the biggest deals.

For You (’78) 0.8
Prince (’79) 1.75
Dirty Mind (’80) 1.8
Controversy (’81) 2.3
1999 (’82) 5.0
Purple Rain (’84) 14.7
Around the World in a Day (’85) 4.35
Parade (’86) 3.5
Sign o’ the Times (’87) 3.75
Lovesexy (’88) 2.65
Batman (’89) 4.4
Graffiti Bridge (’90) 1.95
Diamonds & Pearls (’91) 5.8

Madonna (’83) 8.0
Like a Virgin (’84) 15.0
True Blue (’86) 17.0
Who’s That Girl? (’87) 5.0
You Can Dance (’87) 5
Like a Prayer (’89) 10.0
I’m Breathless (Dick Tracy) (’90) 5.0
Immaculate Collection (’90) 11.0

Off the Wall (’79) 12.0
Thriller (’82) 48.0
Bad (’87) 25.0
Dangerous (’91) 15.0