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Monday, June 29, 2009


In terms of cultural Richter scales, this one goes to 11. And if it has anything do with Michael Jackson, then traffic probably hit record levels. But that is just be the beginning - already, posthumous projects are getting the green light, in search of some serious green. Indeed, Shakur-style exploitation could be put to shame by the post-Jackson gold rush.

Ahead of the real moneymaking efforts, the early beneficiaries are easy to identify. On the news and information side, the Jackson death showed just how quickly the terrain has changed. TMZ, Perez Hilton, Twitter, and the Los Angeles Times site were strained or brought down immediately after the death, thanks to an unprecedented traffic surge. The inferno eventually spread to every major news outlet, though TMZ cast the first spark.

On the media and ecommerce front, the swarm spread to YouTube, iTunes, Imeem, Facebook, Mininova, and the Pirate Bay, just to name a few. On the music side, Michael Jackson songs have been clogging the top 100 on iTunes, and digital retailers across-the-board have been reporting swells.

In turn, these retailers are courting the chaos. A large percentage of digital music sites have been creating Jackson-focused editorial, the perfect setting for a feeding frenzy. Other assets, including merchandise and CDs, are just beginning their upward arc.

And, like Tupac, the re-release train is probably just beginning. Sony Music Entertainment is sitting on a huge recording catalog, and already-solid sellers like Thriller and Off the Wall are suddenly getting a boost from an untimely bout of nostalgia.

Time to make some money, and the remaining Jackson brothers and sisters are sitting on a golden opportunity. The siblings, outside of Janet, are reportedly cash-poor, though the entire gang could start a reunion or tribute tour. Already, the gaping hole left by a summer string of 50 dates at the O2 in London present a possibility.

And the rehearsals leading up to those planned gigs are also worth exploiting. Promoter AEG Live already has well-shot footage of a pre-tour practice.

Michael Jackson was a notoriously outrageous spender, the source of his horrific finances. But Michael is an incredible asset - both in terms of his music, image, and investments (the Beatles catalog is the most lucrative example). Indeed, lots of hands are reaching out for collections, though the post-MJ revenue stream is already running rich.

And, if the family plays its cards right, an Elvis-style empire could be in the offing. Neverland could be the new Graceland, complete with a Michael memorial. And re-releases, licensing efforts, casinos, and nostalgia tours could potentially continue for decades.

And the best part? Michael Jackson, and his voracious spending habits, will be absent from the equation. That means, at least theoretically, that the financial mess left by Michael can be sorted through, though the presence of multiple creditors, rights holders and heirs probably guarantees more chaos ahead.