Sony Music Group has apparently closed a deal to acquire half of Michael Jackson's publishing and master recordings. The assets are valued to be worth $1.2 billion or possibly even greater, making it the largest valuation ever for a musical artist's catalog.
While Sony will be buying into this for a $600 million stake in the singer's valuable resources, the reading from the announcement appears that this does not include royalties from the Tony Award-winning Broadway musical MJ or any other theatrical productions of his work, which presumably include all touring versions of the jukebox musical.
Despite that stipulation, working in Sony Music Group's favor are the rights to the Mijac Music Catalog, which has been under umbrella of Warner/Chappell Music Publishing since its start in 1980. In addition to Jackson's own songs, Mijac handles the catalog of Sly & The Family Stone and hundreds of titles, including "Ease on Down the Road" (from the 1975 Broadway musical The Wiz and sung by Jackson and Diana Ross for the 1978 film adaptation), the Jerry Lee Lewis signature tune "Great Balls of Fire," "Shake, Rattle and Roll," first recorded by Joe Turner in 1954 and "What’d I Say," the iconic soul song written and performed by Ray Charles in 1959.
Of course, Jackson's known hits like “Beat It” and “Bad" would be included in the deal.
While Sony Music Group will have a large portion of Jackson, private music publishing and talent management company Primary Wave will continue to hold onto its 10% stake as it stands.
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This all sounds like a high-stakes business acquisition and considering there is a very visible upcoming Jackson project, it is a fruitful investment. The biopic Michael, helmed by director Anton Fuqua (The Equalizer trilogy, Training Day) and starring Jaafar Jackson – Michael's nephew – in his film debut, is scheduled to premiere in April 2025.
The race to buy artists' catalog has increased by leaps and bounds in the last few years, including Justin Beiber (selling for $200 million), Bruce Springsteen ($500 million) and Bob Dylan ($300-400 million in 2020 and $150-200 million in 2022). The big question here is: Why?
After securing the rights, companies such as Private Wave receive all the money from royalties, licensing, brand deals and other revenue streams that would be going to the artists. The tax benefits are better and in today's landscape with streaming services paying a pittance to musicians and only names like Taylor Swift and Beyoncé pulling in stadium-sized revenue, the riches are all the better.
For Jackson's estate, the future appears to be very lucrative.