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Sony Music Acquires Stake in Michael Jackson Catalog Worth More Than $1.2B

According to a report from Billboard, Sony Music Group has reportedly closed an agreement to acquire half of Michael Jackson's publishing and recorded masters catalog in a deal that is believed to value those music assets above $1.2 billion, and possibly as much as $1.5 billion. This makes it the largest valuation ever of a musician's music assets. Under the deal, Sony will pay at least $600 million for its stake in the legendary rights.

Interestingly, the Jackson deal is at a bigger valuation than the $1.2 billion that Queen is currently seeking. However, Sony's deal with the Michael Jackson estate does not include royalties from the Broadway play and other theatrical productions featuring Jackson's music, unlike Queen's deal, which includes royalties from income streams beyond the masters and publishing, including from the Freddie Mercury biopic, Bohemian Rhapsody, and theatrical productions using Queen's music. Sources suggest that the current deal includes non-Jackson-authored songs in his Mijac publishing catalog, which also includes the approximately 250-song Sly & the Family Stone publishing catalog as well as iconic songs written and/or performed by Jerry Lee Lewis, Jackie Wilson, Curtis Mayfield, Ray Charles, Percy Sledge, and Dion.

According to Billboard, the Jackson estate earns about $75 million annually, including ownership of master recordings, publishing for Jackson's share of his songs, his Mijac publishing catalog, and revenue from merchandise and royalties from theatrical shows featuring Jackson's music. Within this estimate, Jackson's recording and publishing assets alone are believed to bring in $47.2 million to the estate, and Mijac might be bringing in another $5 million to $8 million annually. 

However, the Jackson estimate did not take into account that the late pop star's popularity appears to be growing as the streaming marketplace expands. Sales and streams of Jackson's music grew steadily from 1.07 million album equivalent units in 2020 to 1.47 million in 2023, up 37% over those three years, according to Luminate.

That outpaced the overall U.S. music market for album consumption units, which grew 22.9% during that time period. Outside the United States, Jackson is arguably even more popular. In 2023, consumption of his music grew 38.3% to 6.5 billion on-demand streams, up from 4.7 billion streams in 2021.

It is worth noting that a Jackson biopic called "Michael" is set to be released next year, likely fueling even more growth to his fanbase, boosting consumption, and triggering more revenue to flow to his estate and any other rights holder.

With all of the economic returns the estate is delivering, the masterminds behind it — lawyer John Branca and A&R executive John McClain — are expected to continue to stay involved as co-executors.

In addition, the Sony deal also leaves in place Primary Wave's stake, which is believed to be about 10% of Jackson's publishing assets. Sony has been active with acquisitions over the past year, reportedly acquiring a significant minority stake in the Latin label and management company Rimas Entertainment, which launched Bad Bunny's career.

The overall deal for the label and management was expected to have about a $300 million valuation, sources said at the time.

Lastly, in May 2023, Sony acquired the RECORDS catalog from Barry Weiss, Ron Perry, and Matt Pincus, buying out the latter duo in a deal that was seeking a $100 million valuation, and then did a going forward 50/50 deal with Weiss, who retained control of the label's recent catalog.

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