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March 16, 2010 5:49 AM   Subscribe

Nine months after Michael Jackson’s death, his estate has signed one of the biggest recording contracts in history, giving Sony, Mr. Jackson’s longtime label, the rights to sell his back catalog and draw on a large vault of unheard recordings.
posted by flapjax at midnite (80 comments total) 1 user marked this as a favorite

 
Without at least a little context, this is sort of newsfiltery.
posted by Halloween Jack at 5:56 AM on March 16, 2010


Yeah, who is this Michael Jackson, anyway?
posted by Horace Rumpole at 5:57 AM on March 16, 2010 [14 favorites]


Yet Paul McCartney is still pissed.
posted by stormpooper at 5:59 AM on March 16, 2010 [1 favorite]


Without at least a little context, this is sort of newsfiltery.

The post title makes it pretty clear this story is about necrophilia.
posted by gman at 6:01 AM on March 16, 2010 [1 favorite]


This post is humous.
posted by weapons-grade pandemonium at 6:06 AM on March 16, 2010 [2 favorites]


And here's another one from the crypt
posted by kuujjuarapik at 6:08 AM on March 16, 2010


How does copyright work in a case involving "unheard recordings"? Does it go from the date of recording or the date of publishing? If the former, what if you can't determine that date?

(Not that it matters, thanks Disney.)
posted by DU at 6:08 AM on March 16, 2010 [2 favorites]


DU, my guess would be from date of publishing.
posted by flapjax at midnite at 6:10 AM on March 16, 2010


I suspect that, by rushing to cash in and extract all the money they can, they'll end up screwing over the longevity of the author. Part of the reason the Beatles remain strong sellers is because they've been so, so careful about what deals they do.

There's no care here; the stated intent is a total blitz, selling it to anyone that wants to pay. Big bucks in the short term; total exhaustion and rejection in the long term.

You can tell, by how cavalierly they're treating this licensing deal, how little love was in that family. No wonder he was so fucked up.
posted by Malor at 6:17 AM on March 16, 2010 [6 favorites]


For how many years is this oddity of nature going to haunt us from the grave...??
posted by HuronBob at 6:21 AM on March 16, 2010


With overall record sales on a decade-long plunge, mega-deals like this one have become rare, and Mr. Branca said the deal “exceeds all previous industry benchmarks.”

Mr. Branca also noted that a 100 guitar version of "The Girl Is Mine" would debut at The Kitchen in September.
posted by mintcake! at 6:26 AM on March 16, 2010 [17 favorites]


Can someone tell me if I can now buy Octopus' Garden. I have $1487.52 in my chequing account. That should cover it.
posted by jimmythefish at 6:28 AM on March 16, 2010


This will give people the opportunity to buy the songs that weren't good enough to make it onto Invincible.
posted by Joe Beese at 6:34 AM on March 16, 2010 [1 favorite]


Save your money for something better, jimmy. E.W. Scripps may be looking to unload United Media Licensing.
posted by Smart Dalek at 6:36 AM on March 16, 2010


The deal, for about 10 recordings through 2017, will guarantee the Jackson estate up to $250 million in advances and other payments and offer an especially high royalty rate for sales both inside and outside the United States, according to people with knowledge of the contract who spoke anonymously because they were not authorized to speak about it publicly.

Something about this doesn't add up. Royalty income can't be much as long as Internet pirate ships sail unfettered. An "especially high" rate on zero is still zero.

The only money left for artists is from live performances - why else would Jackson have planned all those concerts in London?

If Jackson could have made a "recording" deal like this before his death, why was he doing the stage performances?
posted by three blind mice at 6:39 AM on March 16, 2010


How does copyright work in a case involving "unheard recordings"? Does it go from the date of recording or the date of publishing? If the former, what if you can't determine that date?

Date of recording. Copyright vests the moment the creative work is fixed in a tangible medium of expression (NB: tangible medium is a term of art; don't think you've suddenly found the loophole that makes mp3s uncopyrighted).

I'm not sure what a court would do if there was no evidence at all regarding when the work was recorded.
posted by jedicus at 6:40 AM on March 16, 2010


three blind mice: "If Jackson could have made a "recording" deal like this before his death, why was he doing the stage performances?"

He couldn't have. He's worth more dead than he was alive.
posted by Joe Beese at 6:40 AM on March 16, 2010 [2 favorites]


"Does it go from the date of recording or the date of publishing? If the former, what if you can't determine that date? "

Copyright starts the instant something is created.
posted by Mitheral at 6:43 AM on March 16, 2010


"Re-issue ! Re-package ! Re-package !
Re-evaluate the songs
Double-pack with a photograph
Extra Track (and a tacky badge)"

(Lyrics from paint a vulgar picture)
posted by elmono at 6:46 AM on March 16, 2010 [1 favorite]


"I'm not sure what a court would do if there was no evidence at all regarding when the work was recorded."

Doesn't seem like it would matter what with the terms being life + 90 years. The 90 year clock starts ticking at death and when it was in copyright before that doesn't matter.
posted by Mitheral at 6:47 AM on March 16, 2010


He's worth more dead than he was alive.

That's exactly what MJ's father, the ever-inspiring Joe Jackson said last October.
posted by flapjax at midnite at 6:48 AM on March 16, 2010


The song he recorded with Lennon and Cobain is said to be particularly awesome.
posted by Artw at 6:52 AM on March 16, 2010 [1 favorite]


Something about this doesn't add up. Royalty income can't be much as long as Internet pirate ships sail unfettered. An "especially high" rate on zero is still zero.

Despite the record companies' constant complaints about lost revenue, people still buy music. Last year alone, four of Jackson's albums (two of which were greatest hits albums) were in the top 20 for the year, selling a combined 6.31 million copies. And that doesn't count the millions of individual songs sold on iTunes and other online music stores. Who knows what the music industry will look like in 2017, but right now owning Jackson's entire catalog is basically a license to print money.
posted by burnmp3s at 6:54 AM on March 16, 2010 [1 favorite]


Without at least a little context, this is sort of newsfiltery.

What cave have you lived in for the last year, that you missed month after month after month of round-the-clock Michael-Jackson's-death news coverage?

...

And this cave, does it have a spare bed?
posted by roystgnr at 6:59 AM on March 16, 2010 [1 favorite]


> Something about this doesn't add up. Royalty income can't be much as long as Internet pirate ships sail unfettered. An "especially high" rate on zero is still zero.

Nike paid $500,000 to use "Revolution" in one commercial in 1987. That's almost a million in 2010 dollars, not including the unannounced sum paid to settle a lawsuit filed by the three surviving members of the Beatles for the ad.

Since then we've seen songs by The Who, Iggy Pop, and others touting everything from sports cars to sea cruises. Advertisers are willing to pay a lot to associate major hits and major celebrities with what they're selling. Rights control is where the money is.
posted by ardgedee at 7:00 AM on March 16, 2010 [1 favorite]


Death has always been a good career move in the music business.
posted by Phanx at 7:04 AM on March 16, 2010 [3 favorites]


flapjax at midnite: "[[He's worth more dead than he was alive.]]

That's exactly what MJ's father, the ever-inspiring Joe Jackson said last October.
"

[shudder] Well, whatever else you want to say about Beltless Joe, you can't say he didn't have a sharp eye for the commercial value of his children.
posted by Joe Beese at 7:05 AM on March 16, 2010 [1 favorite]


First move has gotta be a Rock Band or Guitar Hero package a la The Beatles one.
posted by bardic at 7:14 AM on March 16, 2010


First move has gotta be a Rock Band or Guitar Hero package a la The Beatles one.

Wouldn't Michael Jackson's music fit in better with some sort of "Dance Dance Revolution" kind of game?
posted by wabbittwax at 7:18 AM on March 16, 2010 [1 favorite]


But hey
Long as the cheques clear
You're worth more to me
Dead than alive
(Hee-Hee!)
posted by Alvy Ampersand at 7:19 AM on March 16, 2010


Who's Bad!?
posted by chillmost at 7:27 AM on March 16, 2010


You can tell, by how cavalierly they're treating this licensing deal, how little love was in that family.

The Jackson family had/has zero say in the management of his estate despite Joe and Katherine's failed attempt to ouster the executors. Jackson named two saavyadvisors whom he trusted as executors: John Branca (Jackson’s personal attorney) and John McClain (who worked with Jackson for over 40 years). They 'helped secure the deal for the 'Michael Jackson's This Is It' documentary, which, along with other music sales and business deals overseen by the two, is expected to bring around $200 million into estate coffers by year's end [2009]."

Part of the reason the Beatles remain strong sellers is because they've been so, so careful about what deals they do.

And who had/has equal control in making those deals? Michael Jackson, his advisors and now his executors.

You do realize that Michael Jackson owned/owns a 50% stake music-publishing company Sony/ATV Music Publishing which among other publishing rights owns those of "some 250 Beatles tunes." In 2005 the company was valued "at between $4 billion and $5 billion. The company's song catalogue is believed to generate up to $80 million a year; The Beatles' hits alone bring in $30 million to $45 million a year."

Cavalier? No. Saavy? Yes.
posted by ericb at 7:29 AM on March 16, 2010 [3 favorites]


Wouldn't Michael Jackson's music fit in better with some sort of "Dance Dance Revolution" kind of game?

Well, Eddie Van Halen played guitar on "Beat It", and Slash has played on some of his stuff, so you'd have something to go on at least, but yeah, largely his music doesn't have a lot of kick-ass guitar solos. Some, but not a lot.
posted by DecemberBoy at 7:29 AM on March 16, 2010


Without at least a little context, this is sort of newsfiltery.

Perhaps, but it's always an interesting tale to read about recording industry excesses, especially when they involve huge recording contracts. The dead celebrity thing is also inevitable, newsfiltery or not.

The scary part is that the man's father is really loving this posthumous glory. All of the cash, almost none of the worries (i.e., son's assorted weirdnesses and bizarreries mucking things up). Dead Michael will make more cash than all of the other siblings (including Janet) put together will ever make alive.
posted by blucevalo at 7:33 AM on March 16, 2010


Say what you will, but by comparison, Courtney Love has been very tactful with Cobain's legacy.
posted by Houyhnhnm at 7:34 AM on March 16, 2010


March 16th, 2010, 10:34am: "Courtney Love" and "tactful" are used together in a sentence for the first time.
posted by Horace Rumpole at 7:36 AM on March 16, 2010 [8 favorites]


Royalty income can't be much as long as Internet pirate ships sail unfettered.

The real potential is not royalty payments, but licensing deals - for use in covers, advertising, film soundtracks, etc. Those are "big buck" deals. For example, way back in 1987, Nike paid $250,000 to Capitol Records and $250,000 to Jackson's ATV Music Publishing (this was before a later merger with Sony) to use the Beatle's Revolution in a TV commercial.
posted by ericb at 7:38 AM on March 16, 2010


Say what you will, but by comparison, Courtney Love has been very tactful with Cobain's legacy.

She hasn't had a lot of opportunities to not be as yet - there's only been one big round of Nirvana re-releasing so far. And even when that happened, she caused delays in the release of the box set because she insisted "You Know You're Right" had to be on a separately-sold disc since it would make more money that way (at the expense of the fans, who would have to buy two records to get everything instead of one box set).
posted by DecemberBoy at 7:39 AM on March 16, 2010 [1 favorite]


He couldn't have. He's worth more dead than he was alive.

Yea spending money on chimps, manniquins, and crappy Shirley Temple stuff kind of puts a damper on being worth anything. But man, was he a slob and a creepy slob. Love how the random bleach is on the table and baby powder in the shower.
posted by stormpooper at 7:42 AM on March 16, 2010


It seems only fitting that a zombie industry would hire a dead man.
posted by brain_drain at 7:42 AM on March 16, 2010 [2 favorites]


When a young singer dies
to our shock and surprise
in a plane crash or flashy sports car

He becomes quite well known
and the kindness he's shown
has made more than one post-mortem star

Well, you did it Eddie,
and though it's hard to applaud suicide
your well-publicized end
you considered would send
your memorial album to the top of the charts

And it did.


- paraphrased from 'Goodbye Eddie Goodbye', by Paul Williams from Phantom of the Paradise
posted by davelog at 7:45 AM on March 16, 2010 [2 favorites]


Cavalier? No. Saavy? Yes.

While I, on the other hand, am both. Suck it, haters.

(But what ericb said, seriously, without my vanity.) Don't they have a mountain of debt they have to plow through? I have no ill willl towards them trying to build a stable financial future for his children.
posted by cavalier at 7:46 AM on March 16, 2010


I happen to have just finished Ian Halperin's book about Jackson (don't judge me) and in it, he mentions a few times that Jackson was saving about two hundred unpublished songs, as an inheritance for his children. It wasn't really explained precisely how that was going to play out in real life, but this must be part of that, and I hope they do enjoy some financial security from this--they're probably going to get precious little of any other type of security, although Katherine Jackson doesn't sound too awful.
posted by padraigin at 7:49 AM on March 16, 2010


DecemberBoy: She hasn't had a lot of opportunities to not be as yet . . .

I suppose you're right. I like to think that maybe she insisted on that "best of" compilation for the sake of the band's legacy and not purely for money. After all, only the most devoted fans would buy a deluxe box set like that one. For some reason, I like Courtney and I always try to give her the benefit of the doubt, but I admit, she does not make it easy.
posted by Houyhnhnm at 7:54 AM on March 16, 2010


Looks like we can expect to see Michael Jackson's catalogue remixed into the style of the moment every few years for the next decade or two. By then, they might have virtual actors that can sing and dance like a real person, in time for the first of a hundred years' worth of all-new Michael Jackson releases to roll off the line.
posted by acb at 7:57 AM on March 16, 2010


iTunes has been growing for the last five years up to an estimated $1.6 billion last year. It's likely that Amazon is also making money on their mp3 store as well.
posted by KirkJobSluder at 8:01 AM on March 16, 2010


...the Beatle's Revolution in a TV commercial.

TV commercial for Nike "Revolution".

Other examples:
Budweiser (with 'All Together Now') commercial.

Rock Band (with 'Come Together') commercial.

Blackberry (with 'All You Need is Love') commercial.
Beatles for Sale: Rappers, Brands Turn to Fab Four.
posted by ericb at 8:01 AM on March 16, 2010


Houyhnhnm: "I like to think that maybe she insisted on that "best of" compilation for the sake of the band's legacy and not purely for money."

My understanding is that all major label recording contracts mandate at least one compilation. Of all the things one could be sore at Love for re Nirvana, the release of a "best of" is not one of them.
posted by Joe Beese at 8:02 AM on March 16, 2010


Don't they have a mountain of debt they have to plow through?

Michael Jackson Died Deeply In Debt.

Michael Jackson leaves $1 billion in assets, $500 million in unpaid debts.
posted by ericb at 8:06 AM on March 16, 2010


He's worth more dead than he was alive.

That's exactly what MJ's father, the ever-inspiring Joe Jackson said last October.


And, Joe is cut out of the will and has no say in the estate's handling. Only his wife, Katherine and MJ's children are the primary family beneficiaries.
posted by ericb at 8:11 AM on March 16, 2010


Tupac may soon lose his title has the most successful post-mortem recording artist.
posted by SNWidget at 8:16 AM on March 16, 2010


The scary part is that the man's father is really loving this posthumous glory. All of the cash, almost none of the worries (i.e., son's assorted weirdnesses and bizarreries mucking things up).

Joe gets nothing. Although his wife and grandchildren do get monthly stipends: "$26,000 in payments to Katherine Jackson each month, and a $60,000 monthly payment for the care of the children").
posted by ericb at 8:17 AM on March 16, 2010


I have no ill willl towards them trying to build a stable financial future for his children.

and I hope they do enjoy some financial security from this

My favorite part is when we feel bad for the financial well-being of multi-millionaire heirs.
posted by rocket88 at 8:19 AM on March 16, 2010 [3 favorites]


The question on my mind, is how long until we start seeing casting calls for the broadway musical fantasy based on Jackson's work?
posted by KirkJobSluder at 8:25 AM on March 16, 2010


...broadway musical fantasy based on Jackson's work?

As a betting man, I'm on your side -- ala The Beatles Love | Cirque du Soleil.
posted by ericb at 8:30 AM on March 16, 2010


2010: This Is It
2011: Michael Jackson: The Tribute Collection (Includes previously unreleased material!)
2012: Michael Jackson: The Lost Hit (EP with remixes)
2013: Michael Jackson: The Greatest Hits (Includes 2012's blockbuster "The Lost Hit"!)
2014: Michael Jackson: The Singles
2015: The Michael Jackson Project (covers)
2016: Michael Jackson Live (DVD)
2017: Michael Jackson: The Videos (DVD)
2018: The Michael Jackson Sessions (live, off-mic and unreleased material)
2019: The Diamond Collection (60th anniversary special edition)
2020: This Is It (10th Anniversary special edition)
(Tactful pause)
2022: Michael Jackson: The Ultimate Collection

By that point a generation of children will be growing up unable to hear "Billie Jean", like the moths that have adapted to match their colouring to brickwork.
posted by WPW at 8:33 AM on March 16, 2010 [5 favorites]


Can we please, please stop talking about Michael Jackson? I feel like if we say his name too much more he's going to come back from the dead.
posted by dunkadunc at 8:35 AM on March 16, 2010


I feel like if we say his name too much more he's going to come back from the dead.

Future children will scare themselves silly by turning out the lights and chanting "Michael Jackson" into the mirror.
posted by KirkJobSluder at 8:41 AM on March 16, 2010 [3 favorites]


...giving Sony, Mr. Jackson’s longtime label, the rights to sell his back catalog and draw on a large vault of unheard recordings.

Y'know, most unreleased tracks are "unreleased" for a reason. Just sayin'.
posted by spoobnooble at 8:48 AM on March 16, 2010 [1 favorite]


spoobnooble: "Y'know, most unreleased tracks are "unreleased" for a reason. Just sayin'."

QFT.

I've enough of a Prince fan to have sought out the hundreds of his unreleased songs that escaped from the vault. And only the very best of them - a handful at most - would be worthy of inclusion on the albums.
posted by Joe Beese at 8:56 AM on March 16, 2010


By "context" I meant the sort of thing that ericb posted here and here and here.
posted by Halloween Jack at 9:27 AM on March 16, 2010


Reference for the Courtney Love/Nirvana compilation lawsuit, from Wikipedia:

This recording became the object of much legal wrangling between Love and surviving Nirvana bandmates Dave Grohl and Krist Novoselic. Grohl and Novoselic had wanted the song for a planned Nirvana box set, but Love blocked its release, and a battle over Nirvana's legacy ensued.
Love maintained that "You Know You're Right" would have been "wasted" on a box set, and would be better-suited to a single-disc collection similar to the Beatles' 1.[1] Her lawsuit called the song a "potential 'hit' of extraordinary artistic and commercial value," and her manager asserted that a release with the song could sell 15 million copies.


So, it wasn't the label, and it wasn't her concern for the fans: it was, right from her own mouth, because she thought it would sell better on a separate disc.
posted by DecemberBoy at 9:57 AM on March 16, 2010


This is why I don't believe Michael Jackson is dead. Let's look at some facts:

1) MJ is in shit tons of debt. Like epic debt.

2) His increasingly wack job antics alienate the vast middle ground, leaving only the hardcore fans buying his product

3) MJ starts spending a ton of time living in some far away country protected by the Shah or something (I can't remember whether it was in Africa or the Middle East)

4) MJ "dies"

5) The vast middle ground rediscovers immediately how much they actually did love MJ and suddenly movies, back catalog, memorabilia, unreleased recordings, documentaries, etc pop up generating a shit ton of revenue


Conclusion - MJ is alive and living in secluded luxury surrounded by 10 year old boys in some tropical, non-western country.
posted by spicynuts at 10:02 AM on March 16, 2010 [3 favorites]


Jackson named two saavyadvisors whom he trusted as executors: John Branca (Jackson’s personal attorney) and John McClain (who worked with Jackson for over 40 years).

Holy shit! Jackson named John McClane as one of his executors??? No wonder they're cutting such kick-ass deals. I bet the record companies have heard what happened to Nakatomi Corporation headquarters.
posted by hippybear at 10:24 AM on March 16, 2010 [2 favorites]


...and we wonder why the music industry is in a tailspin...
posted by zerobyproxy at 10:45 AM on March 16, 2010


Big bucks in the short term; total exhaustion and rejection in the long term.

Sadly, I feel that this phrase could also be used to accurately describe any number of business philosophies I encounter day to day. It's not wonder our economy is completely fucked, no one seems to think about the day after tomorrow anymore.

Tupac may soon lose his title has the most successful post-mortem recording artist.

We really do need more zombie performers.
posted by quin at 10:49 AM on March 16, 2010


davelog, you got the lyrics muddled, but Phantom of the Paradise is one of my favorite movies of all time, so I'll forgive you.
posted by Faint of Butt at 11:29 AM on March 16, 2010


DecemberBoy: So, it wasn't the label, and it wasn't her concern for the fans: it was, right from her own mouth, because she thought it would sell better on a separate disc.

Well, she was right, wasn't she? She wanted "You Know You're Right" on a compilation so casual fans, who don't wish to spend a lot of money on a box set, would be able to buy the song. I see a one-disc history of Nirvana as affirming their legacy, not exploiting it, and that's the last I have to say on this matter.
posted by Houyhnhnm at 12:11 PM on March 16, 2010


>> davelog, you got the lyrics muddled, but Phantom of the Paradise is one of my favorite movies of all time, so I'll forgive you.

Yeah, I know, that's why I added a 'paraphrased from' to it - Mary Louise doesn't really figure into the point I was trying to make.

Good on you for being a fan of POTP - not enough people are.
posted by davelog at 12:28 PM on March 16, 2010


Good on you for being a fan of POTP - not enough people are.

When I screen it for friends, I precede it with Paul Williams's episode of "The Muppet Show."
posted by Faint of Butt at 12:59 PM on March 16, 2010


Wasn't Paul Williams actually just a very sophisticated muppet, anyway?
posted by hippybear at 1:28 PM on March 16, 2010


Best one Henson ever built, hippybear.
posted by Faint of Butt at 1:47 PM on March 16, 2010


Who does he think he is, Hotblack Desiato?
posted by Sphinx at 2:16 PM on March 16, 2010


Just imagine what Bugsy Malone would have turned out like if Hotblack scored it.
posted by davelog at 2:22 PM on March 16, 2010


Just imagine what Bugsy Malone would have turned out like if Hotblack scored it.

My... my god. It's full of stars.
posted by Aquaman at 3:12 PM on March 16, 2010


When I screen [Phantom of the Paradise] for friends, I precede it with Paul Williams's episode of "The Muppet Show."

Faint of Butt, I think I love you.

Wasn't Paul Williams actually just a very sophisticated muppet, anyway?

Damn you, hippybear. Now I have to love you, too.
posted by Atom Eyes at 5:32 PM on March 16, 2010


For some reason, I like Courtney and I always try to give her the benefit of the doubt, but I admit, she does not make it easy.

From what I heard, this is basically what Krist Novoselic said just before she f*@#ed them over that re-release deal.
posted by P.o.B. at 6:46 PM on March 16, 2010


He also just registered to vote in Cook County.
posted by Smedleyman at 12:58 AM on March 17, 2010


Is it legally possible to incorporate a public figure who is (or was) a natural person? If so, Michael Jackson (the corporation) could live forever.
posted by acb at 6:01 AM on March 17, 2010


If so, Michael Jackson (the corporation) could live forever.

And possibly run for Congress!
posted by hippybear at 12:02 PM on March 17, 2010


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