Features

Saturday Deluxe / 19 March 2016

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Michael Jackson Estate sells Sony/ATV stake back to Sony

How Paul McCartney must have wished he hadn’t told Michael Jackson about the financial benefits of music publishing. Macca famously missed out on the opportunity to take ownership of the rights to most of the songs he wrote with John Lennon because he failed to come to an arrangement with Yoko Ono in the early 1980s. Without an agreement in place with John Lennon’s widow, Paul, as sensitive as ever to public perception, didn’t want to go ahead on his own for fear of appearing “grabby” and owning John Lennon’s portion of the songs. This was discussed in some detail in Musician magazine back in the early 1990s although there is actually no logic to this, because he could easily have purchased all rights and then sold 50% to Yoko afterwards if he wanted to be ‘fair’.

As everyone knows Michael Jackson bought the catalogue in the mid-eighties (for $41.5m) although Northern Songs as a company ceased to exist in 1995 when Jackson merged it with Sony’s music publishing. There were various financial shenanigans with Sony in the noughties, to allow Jackson to borrow enormous sums, and indeed at the time of his death Jackson had debts of a staggering $500m. Crucially though, he still had a 50% stake in Sony/ATV when he died in June 2009.

Sony triggered a ‘buy-sell’ clause last October which “provides for one partner to buy out the share of the other at the highest possible price”. For a while Michael Jackson’s Estate were considering trying to buy Sony’s half, but in the end they decided that “Sony’s offer was in the best interest of Michael’s children”. Even now, the Estate isn’t debt free and they have acknowledged that they “will use a portion of the proceeds to repay the loan balance on monies borrowed by Michael and secured by his interest in Sony/ATV” although $750m goes a long way, so the Estate is now “completely debt free with substantial assets in cash and other property”.

The normally astute McCartney is left to rue his non-action in the 1980s. Michael Jackson may not have been a poster boy for financial prudence, but he did turn his $41.5m investment into a billion dollar enterprise and that one decision has made a big difference for his heirs.


ChartWatch

Jeff Buckley / Previously unreleased studio recordings premiered with "You and I"After the massive success of the symphonic Elvis Presley collection You Can Dream, Sony Legacy will be very pleased with their new Jeff Buckley You and I set – which contains early, previously unreleased studio recordings – since it debuts at an impressive number 11 on the UK physical chart and number 16 in the ‘proper’ chart.

bowie_memorySuch is the demand for David Bowie releases at the moment that even the most shoddily put together ‘grey market’ CDs are having an impact on the chart. Laser Media’s In Memory Of David Bowie contains 11 “rare FM broadcast songs from the 70s” with – naturally – a front cover image of Bowie from the 1990s. This outsold Aladdin Sane last week!? Can’t think of a less appealing way to remember David Bowie.

carsboxThe Scorpions Return to Forever sneaks into the top 100 physical sellers (no. 99) thanks to a quite generous three-disc ‘Tour Edition’ reissue, but surprisingly The Cars Elektra Years 1978-1987 box set doesn’t sell enough copies to make it into the top 100 and neither does Cherry Red’s GRRR! It’s Betty Boo two-CD deluxe.

Carole King’s Tapestry moves up from number 61 to number 38 purely on the back of all the media coverage when it was announced that she would play the album in full at the British Summer Time weekend at London’s Hyde Park in July. So perhaps we can expect Stevie Wonder‘s Songs in the Key of Life to re-enter next week, since that album will also be played in full on Sunday the 10th of July it has been announced this week.

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33 responses to Saturday Deluxe / 19 March 2016

  1. gb says:

    whats up with all these “unofficial” looking cds on amazon?! s.pumpkins/NIN/hole/cyndi lauper/madonna and loads more … my fave is the madonna one called BITS N BOBS !!! … which I might just have to get for the SNL performance of Bad Girl

    • Carlton says:

      I’d have to look at the track listing when I get home to make certain, but the Bits and Bobs D looks like it’s copied from a fan project that was done in the mid-90s on one of the alt-net listservs. There were two discs called “Secret Garden 1 and 2″ which featured a collection of TV broadcasts. This looks a great deal like disc one of that set, I think.

  2. Rob Wilcock says:

    750 million dollars will allow the Hackson estate to clear their debts rumoured to be 500 million, and they still own Michael Jackson’s master recordings

  3. Daran says:

    @ GB. I noticed there have been two unofficial Eagles MP3 concerts available for download from pretty legit outlets including Amazon and 7 Digital, one is an old 76 Houston concert, but the other is from one of the 94 MTV Hell Freezes Over shows. How on earth is that allowed allowed – of all the bands with managers who are 100% on top of stopping others profiteering from their clients Irving Azoff is right at the top of the tree. Worse still, the Houston concert is now coming out on Vinyl. I can’t see how this is allowed. The label is called Left Field Media, and the link below shows that they have done the same thing for a ton of other major artists. Seem to be all radio broadcasts, is that classed differently under ownership laws? https://www.discogs.com/label/240121-Leftfield-Media

    • RJS Winchester says:

      Bob Dylan, Bruce Springsteen, Talking Heads, Lou Reed, Iggy Pop, Patti Smith, David Bowie, etc. There are hundreds of FM radio broadcasts like the Bowie one mentioned above for sale on Amazon UK. They’re unofficial (pirate) CDs knocked up to look like official releases but the biggest give away is always the crap artwork. Obviously it’s easy to sell a pirate CD but not that easy, it seems, to get away with using an unlicensed image on the cover. I believe it’s some sort of loophole in copyright law that allows these unofficial CDs to be released.

    • paul says:

      artists from the USA and broadcasts before 1.1.1996 from the USA and some other countries are exempt from the UK copyright act
      so they can be released legally in the UK by anyone

  4. gb says:

    Daran – I don’t know how they get around it/are able to sell them on amazon.
    the first I noticed was the madonna Blond Ambition tour recording. which I will probably get as I doubt it will ever get an official release. I’m also tempted by 95 era bowie/NIN and smashing pumpkins/hole ones. save me having to pay a fortune on ebay for expensive bootlegs (prob of which are the same recordings as these) as a fan I already have all official recordings, so buying these are no different to when I used to buy live cds at record fairs. the thing that concerns me is some people might see they are on amazon and not realise they are un-official … and sound quality might not be as good as hoped (though the madonna one – The Party’s Right Here – has got great reviews: but then it is a radio broadcast) … I just don’t know how amazon are being able to sell them. perhaps after so long, radio broadcasts lose their original ownership/who they belong to/are able to be sold??

  5. Shane says:

    I have the Blond Ambition CD and it sounds really good, I recommend it.
    I saw in a German store the Tori Amos 1992ish live recording I think from the same label, didn’t buy it as it was not cheap, will get it from amazon soon.

  6. Mike says:

    Not sure why Betty Boo reissue would bother the top 100? It only sold a few thousand at release. Rather pointless reissue imho and i like her!

    • RJS Winchester says:

      Agreed. It would have been a surprise if it had made the Top 100!

      • Julian Hancock says:

        On the other hand, with album sales being about 20% of what they were a decade ago, it can’t be that difficult to get into the top 100.

  7. Gordon says:

    Regarding the unofficial/bootleg live CDs – it’s a copyright loophole regarding live recordings somewhere. Here in Oz, there was a MASSIVE glut of them during the mid-to-late 90s because of it. But I only ever saw them in bargain shops or newsagents etc., never in a proper music retailer (even some pawn shops wouldn’t take them) and they were clearly labelled ‘UNAUTHORIZED’ or ‘UNLICENSED’.

    Examples:
    https://www.discogs.com/Madonna-Live-Vol-I/release/7119441
    https://www.discogs.com/Madonna-Material-Girl-Vol-2/release/1589483

    I think they must have fixed the loophole because you don’t see them anymore (except second hand on eBay, at markets, etc.)

    The first ones I got were from Madonna’s ‘Blonde Ambition’ tour – and they spoiled me because the sound quality was so great! I kept buying other ones expecting their quality to match but they never did (her Girlie Show ones aren’t great, but still better than the OFFICIAL ‘MDNA’ live CD – what a shocker that is!)

    But I have noticed some reputable online stores (Amazon, Rough Trade and Groovesland/inc. for example) listing some iffy-looking ones lately. I got suspicious a couple months ago when I saw a few Blondie releases from a label called ‘Sonic Boom’. I alerted a mutual contact to them. He said he wasn’t aware of them but they look like radio broadcasts. As a Blondie fan I’m still really keen, but because of the unknown ‘quality’, I don’t like the prices they’re asking. I remember the good old days when bootlegs were CHEAP! Not equal to, or even DEARER THAN official releases like they seem to be now.

    Like ‘Left Field Media’, ‘Sonic Boom’ has quite a few release for a variety of artists and when I looked into the Blondie ones, I stumbled across another label called ‘Air Cuts’ with the same MO.

    http://www.grooves-inc.com/air-cuts-mZZa1-1035439.html

    Plus a label called ‘Megaforce’ which even has a few DVDs.

    Perhaps, as someone said, it’s a time-limit thing because the recordings don’t seem to be recent – they’re all from the 70’s and 80’s (1990 for ‘Blonde Ambition’) so maybe after 25 years or whatever there’s no restrictions.

    • gb says:

      OFFICIAL ‘MDNA’ live CD … funny you mention that. the crowd “interaction” seems added over the vocals. just seems weird when I play the cd. doesn’t seem natural. I’ve only ever played 1-2 tracks from it cause of this. shame cause I just wanted a good recording of this gig. sounds massively over-dubbed afterwards. I like live cds that havn’t had anything done to it. just a live recording. like the madonna B.A cds you mention. I have those. perfect sound.

      • Gordon says:

        I had heard horror stories about the audio of the ‘MDNA Live’ DVD/Blu-ray, so I didn’t set my hopes too high for the CD. But I was still disappointed. The sound seemed flat and distorted, and on one track there was even several seconds of echo/delay* so she’d say/sing one thing, then say/sing the next thing with first thing replaying over it. It was a mess! An appalling effort for an official release.

        I read this morning that her 2 Sydney concerts over the weekend had been filmed for DVD, so here’s hoping for a great ‘Rebel Heart’ live release.

        *I haven’t explained that very well, LOL.

    • paul says:

      check out this on the UK Gov Website

      statutory instrument 2013 No. 536

      broadcasts exempt from the UK copyright right
      this has been in place in the UK since 1999

  8. Joseph says:

    Yes. No offense to Alison, but any Top 100 talk for this reissue is pie-in-the-sky! Please…

    • Paul Sinclair says:

      What about The Cars?

      • RJS Winchester says:

        The Cars have never been that big in the UK. Their highest chart placing for an album was No. 25 in 1985 with Heartbeat City when the single Drive was riding high in the charts post Live Aid. 1987’s Door to Door limped in at a lowly 72, spending just two weeks in the charts. So again, much like the Betty Boo release, their box set missing out on the Top 100 is no real surprise.

      • Joseph says:

        Cars set would be deserving of top 100 if it delivered extras. Considering the individual albums remain so readily available second hand, and the brief LP lengths.

  9. PC says:

    The loophole that allows those releases is that if you recorded the concert – even if only by recording it off a radio broadcast – you are deemed to own that recording and can therefore release it. It’s a ridiculous loophole, but some good stuff has come out, such as an R.E.M. Release from the Green tour.

  10. Steven says:

    PC – my recollection of it is that an Adelaide Legal company realised the artist owns the live version, so, if you have a recording of it, all you have to do is pay the artist their royalty to stay legal. The CDs were sometimes referred to as Applehouse CDs (perhaps after the name of the company that discovered the loophole?) and many, for example an amazing Bowie live on Never Let Me Down tour with some very different versions of songs, were of very fine audio quality, although the Bowie one was all one track. Other great quality releases included several Elvis Costello, U2, Tori Amos, Pretenders…

    My impression was they stopped being released because the market became so flooded with them and the prices dropped so low, profits fell off. Also, as poorer audio quality CDs started getting released, perhaps people stopped buying them too. But maybe the loophole closed, although perhaps the ‘loophole’ existed to permit bands to release other versions of their songs, the record company owning rights to the original recorded version.

    • Joseph says:

      I’m no expert, but believe there is legal leeway for “alternate” recordings which allows artists (or labels) who don’t own original recording rights to issue a live version, or even a studio re-recording as has happened numerous times. Depending on your opinion, the underside is the “unauthorised” live releases. The flip side is when an artist or label does assert ownership of an “alternate” recording in copyrighted product, it techncially itself comes off the market. Artists have been known to do this for the sole purpose of “breaking up” a certain high quality live recording so it can no longer be legally sold/distributed in its entirety by others. I can only assume the fly-by-night labels don’t bother with asserting such rights due to cost and/or unwanted attention it could bring?

  11. Ian says:

    The key thing to remember about all these pirate cds that show up on Amazon and elsewhere is that they are 99%+ of the time available for free on the internet, if you choose to spend a few minutes looking. Whether or not you choose to download them is of course a matter of personal preference…

    • Seth Hollander says:

      100% COoooooooooo-RECT!!!!!!!!!!!!
      Have yet to see any of these radio-sourced releases that I don’t already have via free D/L.
      And the D/L sources usually have a text file that lists the recording source through D/L lineage. The commercial releases don’t. Thus you may buy a CD sourced from an MP3 D/L that was freely procured. If you find the D/L sources yourself, you may be able to find the “lossless” (non-MP3) version also for free!
      Pay for what might be an inferior product or find a superior free version?
      Choice IS yours….

  12. Ken Moore says:

    I bought the Cars box, here in the U.S. That won’t help it in the UK charts, but I had only owned the 1st 2 LPs remastered, so I snagged it. No bonus material, but everything sounds great.

  13. Robert says:

    There has to be a loophole in the copyright law that allows this in the UK. This sort of thing happened for awhile in the 1990’s when bootleg cds were booming out of Italy (KTS, Great Dane, etc) The loophole back then allowed live cds to be issued if the concert was recorded in the early 1970’s or before. The bootleggers got away with more by declaring any concert to be recorded before that date. So you’d have a Springsteen concert recorded in 1967- amazes me how dumb some people are that are creating these laws. It was only a matter of time before they closed the loopholes. The big difference these days is physical cds are no where near as popular as they were in the 1990’s so they may be able to get away with this for a long period of time.

  14. Norbert says:

    The picture above is quite fitting to celebrate 5 years of SDE.
    Happy (slightly belated) Birthday!
    And keep up the excellent work, Paul (Sinclair, not sure what Sir Paul is up to).

  15. Peter B says:

    Re Michael Jackson owning rights to Beatles songs in the past: I really hope that one of them was “Everybody’s Got Something To Hide Except For Me And My Monkey”!!

  16. Albais says:

    As far as i’ve noticed this thing with cd and lp with radio recordings is something that comes from few years ago and it takes various artista and bands.

    In fact i’ve got 2 double colured winyls from same company, Let Them Eat Vinyl, both from same era at the end of 70s, one from Bruce Springsteen and other form Rush and they sound really well.

    Even as an extra add but in different years they we’re part of the RSD bunch and the same company behind them released last year from same event as double double record a original release of a KIlling Joke live compact disc at Hammersmith Odeón if not wrong.

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