Saturday, April 13, 2024

Michael Jackson Catalog Sale for $900 Mil? Not So Fast: He Didn’t Write a Lot of Those Hits, Others Did


Variety is reporting that Sony Music is negotiating to buy a 50% stake in Michael Jackson’s song catalog.

This is NOT the Beatles catalog. Sony already bought out MIchael’s partnership with them in Sony/ATV Music Publishing.

These are songs that Michael himself wrote, or his part of songs he co-wrote, plus sales of his albums going forward, a piece of his Broadway musical and upcoming movie.

While I’m sure it’s true that Sony will do this, the amount of money discussed is ludicrous. Michael Jackson songs worth more than Bob Dylan or Bruce Springsteen? I don’t think so.

Michael did not write a lot of his hits. He did write “Billie Jean,” “Beat It,” “Wanna Be Starting Something,” and “Don’t Stop Til You Get Enough.” Those are his Big Four.

But among Michael’s hits are also “Rock with You,” “Man in the Mirror,” “Human Nature,” “Pretty Young Thing,” and so on. Michael did not write these songs. He didn’t write the song, “Thriller.” Other people did, and they receive royalties. They own those songs, Michael’s estate does not. So keep that in mind. He also co-wrote several songs like “Black or White.” He splits those royalties with the other writers like Lionel Richie on “We Are the World” and Teddy Riley or Greg Phillinganes. R Kelly, now in jail, wrote “You Are Not Alone.”

Michael also didn’t write the Jackson 5 hits. Those were all from Motown writers like Clifton Davis, who wrote “Never Can Say Goodbye.” When those songs are used in the musical or the movie, their composers get paid, not Michael. Don’t forget, he co-wrote three songs with Paul McCartney, including “The Girl is Mine” and “Say Say Say.” And Paul takes his cut.

Yes, the hits Michael wrote are great, and played all the time. The Big 4, plus “Bad,” “The Way You Make Me Feel,” “Dirty Diana,” and “Smooth Criminal.” But those songs, even with their popularity, aren’t worth $1.8 billion. Let’s get serious.

In the Michael world, the ruling thought was every announcement is about the Biggest Deal in History. But this isn’t it. How much? Maybe $400 million tops. So Sony would cough up $200 million.

So, everyone cool down — unless you wanna be starting something.

Roger Friedman
Roger Friedman
Roger Friedman began his Showbiz411 column in April 2009 after 10 years with Fox News, where he created the Fox411 column. His movie reviews are carried by Rotten Tomatoes, and he is a member of both the movie and TV branches of the Critics Choice Awards. His articles have appeared in dozens of publications over the years including New York Magazine, where he wrote the Intelligencer column in the mid 90s and covered the OJ Simpson trial, and Fox News (when it wasn't so crazy) where he covered Michael Jackson. He is also the writer and co-producer of "Only the Strong Survive," a selection of the Cannes, Sundance, and Telluride Film festivals, directed by DA Pennebaker and Chris Hegedus.

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