According to Barry Massarsky, a leading music economist, streams are key to chart success, but radio still remains a more profitable source of income for the King of Pop. In Forbes’ list of 2019’s Highest-Paid Dead Celebrities, a familiar name sat atop, which was Michael Jackson. It was actually his seventh consecutive year on top, and he has been part of the list for the ninth time since his death in October 2009. He had earned more money compared to any other late icon.
Another popular name who’s always on top next to the King of Pop is the King of Rock, Elvis Presley. The rhythm and blues singer is still moving a million albums yearly. He lives on in many forms and has millions of fans across the globe.
If you are wondering how these artists and many other artists who are long gone are still earning millions, then you’re in the right place. It’s because today, we are going to see how they still earn a lot of money even when they’re gone, and where do these earnings go to.
The world’s biggest brands still reference Elvis Presley because of his far-reaching appeal. He continues to earn lots of money because his songs are still being featured in Broadway shows and as well as performed on reality television contests. Also, during the annual Elvis Week, visitors buy tickets and go to his home in Graceland to get a sense of the King.
He also earns via official licensing deals, when his songs or music are being used in different forms of entertainment. For example, in movies, television shows, and as well as in live shows or performances. He has a posthumous earning of around $35 million, which is partly credited to the newly opened entertainment complex called Elvis Presley’s Memphis.
Elvis Presley left his estate to his father, his grandmother, his wife, and his daughter. However, he also left mounting debts that led to a recommendation that the estate sells Graceland, but the heirs decided to keep the mansion and instead opened it to the public in 1982. Today, it is listed on the National Register of Historic Places, and it has been receiving around 600,000 visitors per year. Elvis Presley’s estate also opened the Heartbreak Hotel in Memphis that has a shopping mall that sells Elvis memorabilia.
However, the Presleys no longer control the estate because, in 2005, 85 percent stake was sold to Robert Sillerman’s CKX media company. Then in 2013, the estate was sold to Authentic Brands, the same company that manages Juicy Couture brands and Marilyn Monroe. Elvis’ daughter, Lisa Marie, still owns a 15 percent stake in the estate, and she owns her father’s personal effects and Graceland, which she manages with her mother.
Michael Jackson is the highest-earning departed musician. He wrote lots of influential chart-toppers, including Thriller, Billie Jean, and Human Nature, which are some of the best performers in the industry has ever seen. Michael Jackson has been gone for a decade, and yet, he still earned a whopping $60 million in 2019. When he died, he had an estate worth half a billion but still continued to earn more after suffering a heart attack. In fact, his earnings were doubled.
When Michael Jackson died, his will was clear that he left the bulk of his estate to his mother, wife, and three children. The executors designated in his will have turned around his finances, generating over $600 million in earnings. They earned profits from several song catalogs that Michael Jackson acquired when he was still alive. In addition to that is Cirque de Soleil shows in Las Vegas, posthumous albums, a documentary, and other marketing and endorsement deals.
Michael Jackson’s streaming surged from 1.8 billion spins in 2018, to 2.1 billion spins the following year in the United States. With proceeds coming from his Mijac Music catalog, a Las Vegas show, and a long-term deal with Sony, the King of Pop retains his postmortem cash crown for the seventh time in a row.
Post-Mortem Success is Common, but It Also Depends on Longevity
According to an entertainment lawyer based in Toronto named Eb Reinbergs, post-mortem success happens all the time. It’s because the death of an artist usually draws heavy media coverage, which can reawaken the interest of fans or make other people curious about what made that person became so popular in the first place. Also, for the fans of a certain artist, discovering previously known materials or crafts of that artist gives them a chance to enjoy because they know that there will be nothing new generated ever again.
However, an artist’s death can also tarnish their legacy, especially when what gets released after their death is sub-par. It’s proven that there’s usually an increase in sales immediately after an artist dies, but it eventually slows. In the long run, it will just really depend on whether the work of a certain artist is of classic status. This is the reason why creative forces like Elvis Presley continue to earn around $60 million, respectively, every year based on Forbes.
Aside from that, a controversial death can also push sales higher compared to natural death. It’s because a controversial death, with no clear reason or explanation on what happened, can draw a great deal of media buzz, while natural death can sometimes be disastrous for long-term revenue.
This proves that musicians and artists do not lose their worth after their passing. And the lists that Forbes compiles each year are proof that the power of music can move people whether the artist is still alive or not.
The infographic was originally created by Betway