Long before Prince died, he told close friends he wanted to turn his Paisley Park home and studio complex into a museum. Now, the trust company overseeing his estate — likely with the backing of Prince's siblings — is exploring the idea to open it up as a tourist attraction that some have compared with Elvis Presley's Graceland.
Paisley Park, in the Minneapolis suburb of Chanhassen, already has a large soundstage, two recording studios and the inner sanctum where he lived — the basics for operating as a museum, performance space and recording venue. Since no will has surfaced since Prince's April 21 death of an accidental fentanyl overdose, the final decision will be up to whoever the courts determine will inherit the estate.
Bremer Trust, the special administrator of Prince's estate, received permission from a Carver County judge Wednesday to hire entertainment industry experts to help determine how best to make money off Prince's intellectual property.
Details are contained in an affidavit by Bremer Trust President Craig Ordal, which is now sealed due to confidential business information and the sensitive nature of negotiations. But a filing by an attorney for Carlin Williams, a Colorado prison inmate who claims to be Prince's son, said the affidavit shows that Bremer's plans include hiring experts "on how to manage public tours of the grounds, facilities and buildings located at Paisley Park."
Prince hosted numerous parties and gatherings — some seemingly impromptu — at Paisley Park for years before his death. Shortly after it, his brother-in-law, Maurice Phillips, told the British tabloid The Sun that the family planned to turn it into a shrine to rival Graceland in Memphis, Tennessee. Longtime Prince collaborator Sheila E told "Entertainment Tonight" that Prince was already working on making it a museum, gathering memorabilia from his career, including his motorcycle from "Purple Rain."
And Jeremiah Freed, aka Dr. Funk and Dr. Funkenberry, a longtime fan and friend of Prince who hosts a podcast and website, said the pop superstar's ideas kept evolving, including ways for fans to hear and see his vast archive of unreleased music and videos, so that it'd be a different experience each time.
Prince had the kind of stature that should generate fan interest for many years, said Meredith Rutledge-Borger, associate curator at the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and Museum in Cleveland, comparing him with Michael Jackson and John Lennon.
"It's a wonderful, wonderful ambition," she said. "It's going to be a lot of work. But they're ahead of the game because they've got the stuff ... he kept the majority of everything very much to himself."
And she also expressed hope that the complex would continue Prince's philanthropic work by serving as a music education center for young people.
Prince's 1985 song "Paisley Park" spoke of a place where "admission is easy ... come 2 this place in your heart." Any museum needs multiple revenue streams besides ticket sales, said Allan Hammons, who was instrumental in developing both the B.B. King Museum and Delta Interpretive Center in Mississippi and the new GRAMMY Museum Mississippi. Such sources can include retail sales and space rentals for meetings and events. It also helps to stage new temporary exhibitions to bring people back, he said.
"You have to be creative, there's no doubt about that," Hammons said. "And you have to work at it constantly."
One advantage that Graceland and the B.B. King Museum have is that the artists are buried on site, so visitors can pay their respects, he said. Prince's relatives haven't said what they've done or intend to do with his cremated remains.
Nothing has come yet from talk of creating a similar shrine for Michael Jackson, who died in 2009. His sprawling Neverland estate in Los Olivos, California, was put on the market over a year ago for $100 million. Although three or four interested buyers have toured it, no offers have been accepted, according to real estate agent Suzanne Perkins. Its location more than a two-hour drive from Los Angeles could limit its appeal as a tourist hotspot anyway.
Officials with Graceland and Elvis Presley Enterprises declined to comment on possibilities for Paisley Park. But Freed winced at the comparisons with Graceland: "Paisley Park is far funkier than Graceland will ever be."