Sony, Jackson Estate Ink $250m Deal

Sony and administrators for Michael Jackson’s estate confirmed this week they signed a US$250-million deal that will include releasing new music the pop icon was working on before his death.

The landmark deal would give the entertainment giant distribution rights for all of Jackson’s material until 2017, a source close to the matter said, adding the deal would be worth about US$250 million.

Thanks to the agreement, which smashes all music industry records, Sony Music’s Columbia Epic Label Group and Legacy Recordings would maintain their long-held rights to Jackson’s catalogue of music.

They would also score distribution of new products, including never before published song albums, with some of the music now due to be released in November.

The blockbuster deal involving as many as 10 new Jackson projects, or “musical items,” will include computer video games as well as music and film releases, a source close to the matter said.

“It could be a DVD, a stage show, music video. The creative possibilities are very open,” the source added.

Jackson, who had been with the Epic Label for three decades, died suddenly on June 25 at his rented mansion in Los Angeles after an overdose of powerful prescription drugs, as he was preparing to perform a series of comeback concerts in London.

In a controversial comment after his son’s death, Joe Jackson said the pop star was “worth more dead than when he was alive.” He may be proven right.

The King of Pop was the artist with the most record sales in the United States last year, with 8.3 million copies sold, nearly twice as much as the artist in the number two spot – country-pop star Taylor Swift with 4.6 million album copies.

Since his death, Sony has sold some 31 million Jackson albums worldwide. The album to accompany the This Is It movie has sold five million copies, Sony said.

The posthumous concert movie, based on video of Jackson’s rehearsals for the London concerts, has already grossed more than $250 million worldwide.

“By all objective criteria, this agreement with Sony Music demonstrates the lasting power of Michael’s music by exceeding all previous industry benchmarks,” entertainment lawyer John Branca, one of the estate’s executors, said in joint statement with Sony.

The closest comparable contracts would be rapper Jay-Z’s 2008 accord with Live Nation worth $150 million for recordings and concerts. Madonna secured a 10-year, $120-million contract.

The deal would guarantee the late singer’s heirs more important revenues then those of other dead stars, going a long way to easing the estimated $500 million in debt Jackson left behind due to his lavish lifestyle.

Elvis Presley’s heirs share between $50-60 million each year from sales of music albums and other products.

A Los Angeles court has named Jackson’s mother, Katherine Jackson, 79, the guardian of his three children, Prince Michael, 12, Paris, 11 and Prince Michael II, 7, as well as of his estate, which includes his Neverland ranch and rights he held to songs by The Beatles.

“We believe we have a partner in Sony that knows and appreciates Michael’s artistry as well as the passion of his fans,” said another estate administrator, John McClain.

Jackson’s doctor Conrad Murray pleaded not guilty last month to involuntary manslaughter in connection with the sudden death, but has admitted administering the drugs to the singer.

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