Michael Jackson's Posthumous Sales Estimated At $1 Billion On the one-year anniversary of Michael Jackson's death, the pop icon's estate is rolling in cash. Jackson has joined the ranks of celebrities who earn more in death than they did while alive.
NPR logo

Michael Jackson Stacks Paper From The Grave

  • Download
  • <iframe src="https://www.npr.org/player/embed/128083225/128099967" width="100%" height="290" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" title="NPR embedded audio player">
  • Transcript
Michael Jackson Stacks Paper From The Grave

Michael Jackson Stacks Paper From The Grave

  • Download
  • <iframe src="https://www.npr.org/player/embed/128083225/128099967" width="100%" height="290" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" title="NPR embedded audio player">
  • Transcript


It's MORNING EDITION, from NPR News. I'm Steve Inskeep. Good morning.

Today marks the one-year anniversary of singer Michael Jackson's death. Radio stations across the country are playing the King of Pop's greatest hits. The renewed interest in Jackson's work has improved the finances of his estate, which had become a tangled mess in the last years of his life. NPR's Karen Grigsby Bates reports.

KAREN GRIGSBY BATES: If there's any place that illustrates Michael Jackson's shifting status, it's Amoeba Records, an iconic music shop on Sunset Boulevard in Hollywood. Daniel Tures remembers what Amoeba's Michel Jackson stock looked like before Jackson's death last June.

Mr. DANIEL TURES (Manager, Amoeba Records): We had this huge pile of old Michael Jackson stuff that wasn't really selling. This was this one gigantic box set they did that was, like, every single thing he'd ever recorded. I forget what the thing's called. And we had a whole pile of these things that we had ordered a couple of years ago. They never sold, and they were just sitting in the corner.

BATES: But, Tures says, everything changed the day Jackson died.

Mr. TURES: We just put everything we had out, and every single copy of everything good just sold within an hour.

Mr. STEVE POND (TheWrap.com): It's cynical to say it, but death can be a very good career move.

BATES: Steve Pond is a writer for TheWrap.com, an online daily that covers the entertainment industry.

Mr. POND: I mean, Michael Jackson's estate has apparently made about a billion dollars in the year since his death.

BATES: It's a posthumous comeback that restored Jackson to the powerful peak he enjoyed in the '80s, when he revived the flagging music industry with megahit albums like "Off the Wall" and this...

(Soundbite of song, "Thriller")

Mr. MICHAEL JACKSON (Singer, Performer): (Singing) Thriller, thriller night, 'cause I can thrill you more than any ghost would dare to try. Thriller, thriller night.�

BATES: Jackson made a huge amount of money, but he also spent a large amount, which got him into serious debt. Bill Werde, editor of�Billboard Magazine, says Jackson's death, tragedy that it was, had the odd benefit of fixing his financial problems.

Mr. BILL WERDE (Editor, Billboard Magazine): Not only does it spur an incredible amount of interest in that artist - which of course, drives sales and other revenue opportunities - but it also removes the spending from the estate in a big way.

BATES: It's happened with other artists - most famously, this guy.

(Soundbite of song, "Suspicious Mind")

Mr. ELVIS PRESLEY (Singer, Performer): (Singing) We're caught in a trap. I can't walk out, because I love you too much, baby.

BATES: Elvis was high up on Forbes Magazine's dead celebrities earnings list for years, but Jackson placed ahead of him last year. Bill Werde.

Mr. WERDE: He made some very shrewd investments in his life. It's pretty well-known that he has a 50 percent stake in the Sony/ATV catalog, which has rights to the Beatles songs. His estate owns his own song catalog, which not many artists have the chance to do.

(Soundbite of song, "This is It")

Mr. JACKSON: (Singing) This is it. Here I stand.

BATES: With the rerelease of old favorites and the unveiling of the hit documentary, "This Is It," featuring his last rehearsal, Jackson's estate is making plenty of money to pay the bills. Billboard's Bill Werde says, if managed properly, Jackson's children Prince, Paris and Blanket won't have to worry about saving up for college.

Mr. WERDE: Not only would his children not have to worry about their college tuition, but his children's children and probably their children won't have to worry about college tuition.

BATES: Formidable. Or, as the man himself might put it...

(Soundbite of song, "Bad")

Mr. JACKSON: (Singing) You know I'm bad, I'm bad.�Really, really bad.

BATES: Karen Grigsby Bates, NPR News.

(Soundbite of song, "Bad")

Mr. JACKSON: You know it. And the whole world has to�answer right now, just to tell you once again,�who's bad.�

INSKEEP: More coverage of Michael Jackson at npr.org.

Copyright © 2010 NPR. All rights reserved. Visit our website terms of use and permissions pages at www.npr.org for further information.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by Verb8tm, Inc., an NPR contractor, and produced using a proprietary transcription process developed with NPR. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.