When the late Lew Wasserman told me I was a "future scenarist," it was not his insightful sense about my rare psychic powers. Lew just realized that I saw the obvious, viz.: everything old is new again (thank you Peter Allen).
I wrote a trash novel published in 1986 based on the premise that recording artists are worth more dead than alive. Their sound and image exploitation coupled with worship by the public amplifies their income streams. Think Janis Joplin, Jimi Hendrix, Jim Morrison, Elvis Presley, John Lennon and now, David Bowie.
The reason for cloaking that novel as a roman a clef and changing names and making composites in the world of sex-drugs-and-rock-n-roll was designed to protect my knee caps and to sugar coat the unpleasant fact, the truth, that dead artist trafficking is a business and that artists are chattels. In life, they make money and the people around them make money. Their ritual death dance is a Fellini-esque, sad circus which is tragic and inevitable. (And the money keeps rolling in.) (1)
"Rock stars are definitely worth more dead than alive." Sweetie Baby Cookie Honey... Michael was my Huffington Blog in 2009, written on his demise, when I said about Michael Jackson: "Watch carefully," because:
Michael's "ever-crushing debt will be eradicated." Michael's net worth on date of death is paltry compared to five years from 2009. "Think billions!" (I was off by two years to get above the billion mark.)
If the reports coming from the press this week are true, Jackson died $500 million in debt and was also borrowing money from SONY-ATV with a loan in excess of a quarter of a billion dollars. The Jackson estate has since paid off most of these personal debts and the current SONY publishing deal will clinch it.
It would appear from recent published figures that his estate generated $600 million in gross earnings through the end of 2013 and earnings since then are guesstimated at an additional $200 million. So $800 million has been earned from or by the deceased Michael Jackson since his untimely death in 2009.
If his estate is getting $750 million as the estate's share of this publishing asset (more than one million songs including The Beatles Collection), my 2009 prognostication of Jackson's estate hitting one billion dollars has now been realized!
I don't feel vindicated by this and do not want to sound crass or mean-spirited. I did want to remind the naysayers (I did receive a lot of letters indicating that I was insensitive and disgraceful) and I disclose that I did not make the film of Jackson's rehearsal footage and commercially release it! However, doing something like that to maximize revenue for an estate is totally legitimate to get out of debt. It is lucrative and an obligation of fiduciaries to act responsibly.
The theatrical shows by Cirque De Soleil as well as the merchandizing and the video games (albeit vulgar) are also the reason the Jackson estate has been able to pay off its debt and grow in value... Those are smart actions to manage this "asset."
For those of you who think I am exaggerating or that this isn't a pattern, please reread Sweetie Baby Cookie Honey... Michael in the Huffington Post (2009) and see the rationale explained.
Death guarantees immortality and a flow of bucks. There are crowds of fans who attend this sideshow. There are compilation albums, stage shows, "outtakes" from rehearsals, memorial concerts, Graceland and Neverland. It's a money machine and this is the music business... as much as the creative parts of writing, recording, touring and performing. This is show biz. "THE SHOW MUST GO ON."
This publishing company sale to SONY was an asset that Michael Jackson shrewdly purchased - and now his last big score. My novel may have been sex, drugs and rock-n-roll but I still appreciate Billboard saying that it was "smarmy vulgarity and the underbelly of the music business."
Good for SONY.
Good for the Jackson heirs.
Good for the copyrights and for all the composers, lyricists and artists.