Even in death,
The seven-year deal with Jackson's longtime home, Sony Music Entertainment, could cover up to 10 new Jackson projects, though no specific releases were announced on Monday. "We and Sony feel that the future for Michael Jackson is unlimited," said John Branca, a special administrator for the estate. In a testament to his enduring appeal, the Jackson deal eclipses a number of mega-deals signed by contemporary acts, including Bruce Springsteen's $110 million deal with Columbia Records in 2005 and Robbie Williams' $150 million pact with EMI in 2002.
According to an anonymous source with knowledge of Jackson's financial dealings, in the nine months since his death the singer has sold more than 31 million albums at a time when the music industry continues a decade-long album sales slide. In fact, the combination of those sales and other licensing deals cut by Branca have brought in close to $250 million to the estate, which has helped to ease the burden of the nearly $500 million in debt Jackson owed at the time of his death.
Rob Stringer, the chairman of Columbia Epic Records, the Sony division that will likely handle the releases, said the recordings will "span across different projects. There may be theater. There may be films and movies. There may be computer games — or multimedia platforms that I don't know about today that will happen in 2015."
Already in store is a another reissue of Jackson's solo debut, 1979's Off the Wall, due next year, with a variety of new, exclusive material. A special edition of that album was re-released in 2001 with a pair of unreleased demos of the songs "Don't Stop 'Til You Get Enough" and "Workin' Day and Night."
"The stuff we have in the vaults around that record is fascinating and remarkable," Stringer said. "We're going to build a whole platform with a documentary. The outtakes are fantastic! We have a lot of great stuff from around every time period [in Jackson's career]. We're plowing through everything now to understand what we've got."
The estate's other executor, John McClain, who worked with Jackson for over 40 years and helped produce the singer's last studio album, 2001's Invincible, is compiling an album of previously unreleased material that could be released later this year. "John McClain tells me they've got over 60 unreleased recordings that they're choosing from," Branca told the Times. "The first album will have around 10. There's some very recent stuff and vintage stuff that deserves to be shared with Michael's fans." Jackson is said to have left behind more than 100 unreleased songs that could be mined for releases for decades in the same way that the recordings of Elvis Presley and Jimi Hendrix have since those performers' deaths.