Michael Jackson estate signs $250m Sony deal

Michael Jackson

Sony pays more for rights to dead singer’s music than it has ever paid a living artist

BY Edward Helmore LAST UPDATED AT 07:22 ON Tue 16 Mar 2010

Sony has taken the highly unusual step of signing the late Michael Jackson to a ten-album, seven-year deal valued at as much as $250 million. Both Sony and Jackon's estate say the deal is the most lucrative ever, including any signed with a living musician.

While it is not unusual for a musician's sales to temporarily spike after their death, Sony calculates that it can keep the late King of Pop's career going for years into the future. But can it possibly make sense to pay more for a dead person than for one living?

In the topsy-turvy music industry - a business whose sales are down more than half in the last decade and which is having difficultly establishing and maintaining the careers of young artists - anyone with an established commercial record comes at a premium price, dead or not.

Since Jackson's death last summer from an overdose of the anaesthetic Propofol, Sony has sold an estimated 31 million of his albums worldwide. By the first anniversary of his death on June 25, his estate expects to have earned $250 million from sales of music and merchandise as well as from the well-reviewed documentary This Is It.

The money problems that dogged Jackson in his last years now look like being resolved. The estate says it will pay off about $125 million in debt by the end of this year, including $35 million owed to AEG, the promoter of Jackon's doomed tour, and refinance a further $325 million backed by Jackson ownership of 251 Beatles songs and Neverland, his 2,600-acre ranch outside Santa Barbara.

Best of all for his beneficiaries, Jackson himself is not around to spend his money on an infamously lavish lifestyle.

Sony and Jackson's estate have already planned a series of releases including an album of previously unheard songs scheduled for the end of this year, a series of Best Of collections and expanded reissues of Jackson's best albums, Off the Wall and Thriller. The Wall Street Journal reports speculation of a Cirque du Soleil show in Las Vegas based on Jackson's music. · 

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