Welcome to the post-Elvis era at Paisley Park.
After three years of Prince’s studio-turned-museum run by Graceland Holdings, a new Paisley epoch is evident in the openness of the recently hired executive director, the expansion of programming and exhibits, and altered policies including — we hope the Purple One rests in peace over this one — allowing cellphone photos in certain parts of the complex.
Alan Seiffert, who started Oct. 1, is friendly, accessible and more forthcoming than anybody who has ever held a job at Paisley Park. But then Prince didn’t make him sign a nondisclosure agreement.
Seiffert talks the talk about preserving Prince’s legacy and integrity and “amplifying Paisley Park as a creative sanctuary.” But he walks the walk, too.
Among the changes he’s implemented:
• Cellphones are permitted for the first time in the soundstage and NPG Music Club for special events and at the end of museum tours. “We want those Instagram moments; people really want them,” Seiffert said. “Unlike other institutions, we don’t have the iconic visual outside. It’s important for the younger audiences. Since we opened that up, we’ve seen the social engagement increase in a pretty significant way.”
• The fourth annual Celebration has been moved from late April, its traditional date, to June 4-7 — coinciding with the icon’s birthday rather than his death. Ambitious plans include a possible outdoor concert. A “remembrance” event tied to the anniversary of Prince’s death on April 21, 2016, will be announced soon.
• Additional Prince outfits, instruments and vehicles are displayed in the soundstage (and available for photographs). By the by, none of the cars is allowed to be functional due to fire hazards; they are pushed into place by eight people wearing white gloves. There are some other new items on the Paisley tour as well, with plans to rotate exhibits more regularly.
• Museumgoers are now allowed into the “little kitchen” adjacent to the atrium. It was Prince’s cozy hangout, where he dined and watched TV. The Lynx 2015 WNBA championship game is now replayed on the TV.
• More events that celebrate creativity have been taking place in Prince’s 65,000-square-foot playground, including an occasional concert series launched last month with Meshell Ndegeocello, a January cinema series as well as a book signing and record-release parties. A “Rainbow Prom” for high schoolers is planned for May with a DJ, pop, popcorn and a room for parents.
• Full-body mannequins of the rock star are being custom made for displaying his outfits. Some are already in the exhibit for the Lovesexy Tour.
• Alcohol is being sold at select events in the soundstage. “Prince did have parties here and he did entertain people,” Seiffert pointed out. “It [alcohol] has been done since the Justin Timberlake Super Bowl party in 2018. It’s not that big of a change.” There is still no smoking or meat allowed on the pescatarian premises.
• Paisley has reopened its recording studios (Beck cut an EP there last year) and soundstage for performances and shooting of TV commercials.
New boss lives here
Seiffert answers to his bosses at Comerica Trust, the administrator of Prince’s estate, namely Angela Aycock and Andrea Bruce. Unlike his low-profile predecessor, New York-based Joel Weinshanker of Graceland Holdings, Seiffert lives in the Twin Cities, with his family in New York soon to join him.
When making decisions about Paisley Park, Seiffert is not required to get input from Prince’s heirs, but he said he has found them to be supportive.
Calling Comerica “the best bosses ever,” he said, “They let us do what we’re here to do. I find them to be pretty hands-off. They are supersmart and ask great questions.”
Under Seiffert, Paisley Park and the estate are more integrated than before, coordinating such things as a record-release party for Prince’s “1999 Super Deluxe” last fall.
Although Seiffert wants to stage concerts and special events in Prince’s performing space, he does not see Paisley competing with First Avenue, Live Nation or any other established entities.
“We’re not doing 52 weeks of programming,” he said in an interview in his second-floor Paisley office, decorated with European Prince posters. “We partner with them on collaborative projects.”
While Weinshanker relied on a Memphis-based chief archivist who also worked at Elvis’ Graceland, Seiffert has promoted Mitch Maguire, former Paisley tour manager, to “legacy preservationist.”
Not only has Maguire been unearthing more artifacts and outfits, but he’s been sprucing up exhibits.
“It’s feeling more like Paisley used to feel,” Maguire said.
Longtime Prince associates Trevor Guy (creative director) and Kirk Johnson (estate manager) are still on board, though they’re attached to the estate, not Paisley Park.
Former TV executive
A fan since Prince’s 1978 debut album, Seiffert, 58, never saw the Minnesota icon in concert. As a promoter of the BET Experience at LA Live in June 2016, he was negotiating to book Prince’s “Piano and a Microphone” show for that festival before the star died of a fentanyl overdose.
A Los Angeles native with a master’s in arts administration from New York University and a law degree from the University of Michigan, Seiffert has worked in both New York and Los Angeles, for the NBA, Viacom, Fox Television and NBC Universal, and he promoted the Black Girls Rock Festival in Washington, D.C.
To land his Paisley job, Seiffert went through the “most rigorous” interview process he’s ever experienced, with Comerica and the heirs.
“I was interviewed by everyone but you,” he said with a smile. “I don’t know who voted. I was asked really thoughtful questions.”
Seiffert has been working with the city of Chanhassen to change some regulations for Paisley’s license, which permits a limited number of events per year.
About the only thing Seiffert wouldn’t discuss is attendance on Paisley Park tours.
He did say Paisley is exploring offering memberships and adding digital components to the guided tours. “You will see some changes in the next year,” he promised.
Among the challenges facing the Chanhassen complex are limited parking (they’re considering expanding shuttle service from remote ramps) and juggling museum tours with clients using the recording studios and soundstage.
Despite those challenges, there is no question that, nearly four years after Prince’s death, Paisley Park has come alive again.
Now if they could just get the place to smell like the candle-burning Prince again.