Jackson deal smashes records

Nine
months after Michael Jackson’s death, his estate has signed one of the biggest
recording contracts in history, giving Sony, Mr. Jackson’s long-time label,
the rights to sell his back catalogue and draw on a large vault of unheard recordings.

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.

It
also allows Sony and the estate to collaborate on a wide range of lucrative
licensing arrangements, like the use of Jackson music for films, television and
stage shows and lines of memorabilia that will be limited only by the imagination
of the estate and the demand of a hungry worldwide market.

“We
think that recordings will always be an important part of the estate,” John Branca, an entertainment lawyer who is
one of the estate’s executors, said in an interview on Monday. “New generations
of kids are discovering Michael.”

The
first recording covered by the new contract is the “This Is It” soundtrack,
released last year, and Sony plans a new album of unreleased recordings for
November.

Sony’s
contract is a bet on the continued appeal of Mr. Jackson, whose sales spiked
after his death in June at the age of 50.

“It’s not just a
record deal,” said Rob Stringer, chairman of the Columbia/Epic Label Group, a
Sony division. “We’re not just basing this on how many CDs we sell or how many
downloads. There are also audio rights for theatre, movies, computer games. I
don’t know how an audio soundtrack will be used in 2017, but you’ve got to bet
on Michael Jackson in any new platform.”

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Nine months after Michael Jackson’s death, his estate has signed one of the biggest recording contracts in history
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