The Michael Jackson estate has signed a contract extending its relationship with Sony Music as the Jackson economic juggernaut continues to generate tens to hundreds of millions of dollars in annual revenue.
Even in a time of declining sales, the songs of Jackson, who died June 25, 2009, still generates over a million track downloads a year for the last three years running, while his album catalog still moves over 500,000 units annually. Moving over to streaming, so far this year’s Jackson music has been played 1.05 billion times, of which 443 million were audio streams and 608 million were video streams. Since Nielsen Music began tracking streaming, Jackson’s music has generated 3.1 billion streams, 1.2 billion in audio and 1.9 million in video. The audio streams alone translate into nearly 800,000 album consumption units.
The signing not only continues a nearly 40-year relationship since Jackson released his Epic debut, Off the Wall in 1979, but also extends the landmark deal signed with the estate after the singer’s death in 2010 that provided for the estate to reach up to $250 million in advances and other payments for about 10 recordings. Since then, four albums have been released, Michael, Immortal, Escape, and Scream which combined have scanned 1.29 million units; this is on top of the 1.8 million units that 2009’s This Is It has generated since its release.
“Michael Jackson was an unsurpassed genius and an iconic force in music entertainment,” Sony Music CEO Rob Stringer said in a statement. “The music — and videos — he made as an artist as part of the Sony Music family are essential to pop culture history. We’re proud to be part of that history, and to find new innovative ways to make Michael’s music available to future generations of fans.”
As part of the deal, Sony will partner on additional projects that the estate may produce during the term of the agreement. While terms of the deal, including its valuation, were undisclosed, sources say it’s for another seven years. While the additional projects weren’t spelled out, they likely would include the additional six albums implied by the original 10-album contract.
“We couldn’t ask for more creative and innovative partners than Sony and Rob Stringer (whose history working personally with Michael goes back to the 1990s),” the Jackson estate executors John Branca and John McClain said in a combined statement. “Michael continues to inspire generations of artists who have come after him and attract new fans who understand that his music and message are more important than ever. We look forward to continuing to preserve and develop his remarkable musical legacy with Sony.”
Other projects that have been issued through Sony since the singer’s passing include the production of two documentaries directed by Spike Lee: Bad 25 and Michael Jackson’s Journey from Motown to Off the Wall; a crowd sourced music video for “Behind the Mask” (2010), the first Twitter music video premiere for “A Place With No Name” (2014) and an augmented reality campaign for Scream (2017), according to the announcement on the new deal with Sony.
But beyond those projects, the Jackson estate also cut other deals on its own, like the one it did with Cirque Du Soleil for the “One” tribute tour, which also benefited Sony Music as a licensee. In the future, those type of deals may provide an avenue for Sony to participate beyond licensing, sources suggest.
Also according to that announcement, “the last seven years of the creative partnership between Sony and the Estate have been characterized by the same kind of record-setting achievements that Michael realized during his lifetime. His recordings continue to meet new sales benchmarks with Thriller [becoming] the first and only album in RIAA history to pass the triple Diamond mark with a 33X platinum certification; Bad also achieved Diamond status. Jackson’s latest release, the compilation album, Scream, was his 16th Billboard Top 40 Album and 30th charting album and its release kicked off the worldwide, first annual Michael Jackson Halloween campaign.”
The announcement further noted that Jackson “ranks in the top five of all catalog artists for both audio streaming and video streaming for 2017, as well as in the top 5 of all artists for the combined audio and video streaming for 2013 – 2017.”