Jackson Catalog

Stephanie Conlon

In the past month, the sale of Michael Jackson’s multi-platinum catalog along with the works of other musicians have begun their transition into new ownership at Sony/ATV Music Publishing. Sony/ATV is the largest music publishing company in the world to date and has all but technically owned the songs for the past thirty years.

The late Michael Jackson  (AP photo)
The late Michael Jackson
(AP photo)

In 1985, ATV Music Publishing was sold to Michael Jackson for $47.5 million. With this, the Estate of Michael Jackson gained, and until now, retained the rights to not only Jackson’s songs, but also those of other artists, most notably the Beatles. The catalog in discussion also consists of the publishing rights for 750,000 songs by artists like Marvin Gaye, the Rolling Stones, and Taylor Swift.

While there was some bitterness from Paul McCartney who, like Jackson, attempted to purchase ATV publishing in the 80’s, beginning in 2018, the remaining representatives of the Beatles will be able to recoup the rights to Beatles songs starting with the earliest written in 1962 in accordance with the Copyright Act of 1976.

How did all of this talk of selling just start six years after Jackson’s death? In 2006 Jackson faced almost crippling debt at which point he agreed to give Sony the option to purchase his share of the catalog at a later date. It is only in this last month that Sony exercised that contractual option known as the buy-sell clause. As of now nothing is set in stone but the company has begun to look at numbers and work out terms of sale.

Sony Entertainment CEO Michael Lynton remarked on the situation in an interview with Music Business Worldwide, “I strongly believe that, whoever ultimately ends up owning the company, Sony/ATV will remain a great business and a leader in music publishing for many years to come.”

The rest of the buying and selling process should be solidified within the next few months.