Announced Friday (Dec. 17), the music publishing giant will continue to represent the late British superstar artist’s works, which stretch back over four decades and cover both Michael’s solo work and the songs he wrote as frontman of ’80s pop duo Wham.
The renewed deal comes ahead of the fifth anniversary of Michael’s death. The singer passed away Dec. 25, 2016 on a day when two song he contributed to were pumping on holiday-themed playlists around the globe, Wham’s “Last Christmas,” and Band Aid’s “Do They Know It’s Christmas.”
Five years on, and powered by streaming platforms, “Last Christmas” finally topped the U.K. singles charts at the start of 2021, 36 years after its release. That feat set a new chart record for the longest time taken for a single to reach the summit.
“We are genuinely delighted that, after many months of detailed discussions and negotiations, we have renewed our longstanding association with WCM which started in the early ‘80s,” comments Chris Organ, George Michael’s lawyer and co-executor of the George Michael estate.
“We live in an age of sale and acquisition, and interest in, and competition for, this catalog was fierce,” Organ continues. “George was a very loyal man who valued and nurtured long-term business relationships; but ultimately wanted to be remembered as a great songwriter.”
Michael first impacted Billboard’s charts in 1983 with Wham!’s “Young Guns (Go for It),” which appeared on the Dance Club Songs chart. During his lifetime, Wham! and Michael earned 21 top 10 hits on the Billboard Hot 100 chart, including 10 No. 1s. Among those chart-toppers: “Wake Me Up Before You Go-Go,” “Careless Whisper,” “Faith,” “Father Figure,” “I Knew You Were Waiting (For Me)” (with Aretha Franklin) and “Don’t Let the Sun Go Down on Me” (with Elton John).
All told, Michael sold more than 125 million records worldwide, had 12 No. 1 singles in the U.K. (including seven as a solo artist), snagged six Ivor Novello Awards, three BRIT Awards and two Grammys.
In recent months, Warner Chappell Music has struck agreements with several new partners, from Roblox to Peloton, and expanded its global network with offices in Hanoi and Shanghai to tap into the Asia market.
Those developments offer opportunities to introduce Michael’s music to even more people, notes Guy Moot and Carianne Marshall, co-chairs of Warner Chappell Music.
“George Michael is one of the greatest songwriters of all time,” they say in a joint statement. “We all still miss his engaging personality, but he’s left the most incredible legacy in the form of his songs and performances. We take our responsibility to curate and promote his catalog incredibly seriously, because even the greatest songs still need energetic champions.”