This Saturday (June 25) will mark the second anniversary of music legend Michael Jackson’s passing. Performing since the age of 5, the singer/songwriter is one of the music industry’s most successful artists with legions of fans that adore his songs, videos, movies, fashion and philanthropic efforts. Since his death, Jackson’s lasting impact continues to be felt as the legacy of his brand is everlasting. As BlackEnterprise.com continues its celebration of the business of music for Black Music Month we decode the music icon’s influence and proven bankability over the years. —Andreas Hale
Record Breaking Album Sales The “King of Pop” earned his crown by being the undisputed king of album sales. Jackson’s Thriller has sold as an estimated 110 million copies worldwide since its 1982 release. To put it in perspective, Thriller doubles the worldwide sales of the No. 2 album on the list, AC/DC’s Back In Black, which has sold an estimated 49 million. During his career as a solo artist—beginning in 1972 and spanning 10 albums—Jackson has sold 750 million albums and counting.
The Original Ticket Master Not only did Michael Jackson rake in the dough with his album sales, but his live concerts cleaned house as well. “The Bad World Tour” (1987-1989) included 123 shows in 15 countries and became the highest grossing tour at the time, earning $125 million. That record would stand until Jackson trumped it himself not once but twice with the “Dangerous World Tour” (1992-1993) and again with 1996-1997’s “HIStory World Tour,” which featured 82 concerts on five different continents and earned an estimated $165 million. Only U2 and The Rolling Stones have had more successful world tours.
Let’s Make a Deal While Jackson endorsed everything from LA Gear to Suzuki, it was Pepsi that raked in the big bucks for the “King of (soda) Pop.” In 1983 Jackson and PepsiCo struck a $5 million partnership, which shattered any other celebrity endorsement deal at the time. Jackson helped the company reach $7.7 billion in sales in 1984 and then signed a second $10 million deal with the beverage brand to support his “Bad” tour in 1987. He later struck another blockbuster deal with Pepsi to sponsor “The Dangerous World Tour” to the tune of $20 million. But perhaps his biggest deal was the one made after his death in 2010 when Sony and the Jackson estate struck a $200 million contract for 10 projects over seven years.
<strong>Humanitarian Nature</strong> While Jackson was known to bring in large sums of money, he was just as well known for giving it away through numerous charitable functions, ranging from concerts to auctions. In 1984 he donated all of the money (<a href="http://www.looktothestars.org/celebrity/113-michael-jackson" target="_blank"><strong>$1.5 million</strong></a>) he received from Pepsi following the infamous incident where his hair <a href="http://news.bbc.co.uk/onthisday/hi/dates/stories/january/27/newsid_4046000/4046605.stm" target="_blank"><strong>caught on fire</strong></a> during a commercial taping to the Michael Jackson Burn Center for Children. Jackson also co-wrote 1985’s smash collaborative effort “We Are The World,” which raised <a href="http://www.usatoday.com/life/television/news/2006-07-27-mtv-cover_x.htm" target="_blank"><strong>$63 million</strong></a> for humanitarian causes. His Heal The World foundation was established in 1992 and, among other things, managed to get <a href="http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=olLiOrgOXeQ" target="_blank"><strong>46 tons of medical supplies and winter clothing airlifted</strong></a> to Sarajevo during the Bosnian Crisis. Jackson even <a href="http://www.mtv.com/news/articles/1430468/jackson-baby-photo-money-go-charity.jhtml" target="_blank"><strong>donated the $3 million</strong></a> he made from selling pictures of his son Prince Michael Junior to the <em>National Enquirer</em> and <em>OK Magazine</em>. He was also known to donate tens of millions of dollars anonymously to children’s charities.
Must-See Music Videos It’s widely acknowledged that Jackson was instrumental in thrusting MTV from a struggling cable channel to a monster network. In 1983 he broke down the color barrier when his video for “Billie Jean” became the first clip by an African American artist to air on the network. MTV benefited tremendously from Jackson’s growing star power and his continued reinvention of the video format. More than music clips, his highly conceptual visuals were expensive epic mini movies. The 18-minute videos for “Bad” ($2.2 million) and “Black or White” ($1.5 million) were big but it was Jackson’s 1995 video with younger sister Janet for “Scream” that broke the bank with whopping production costs reaching $7 million. It’s still the most expensive music video of all time.
Movie Magic Although most may not think of Jackson’s career as an actor, but his movies were big smashes on home video and at the box office. His 1989 collection of videos—a short film titled Moonwalker—went 8x platinum. Although 1978’s The Wiz didn’t fare well in theatres, Jackson’s swan song documentary “This Is It” posted monster numbers worldwide. After initially looking to only do a two-week run, the film was extended to a longer run and resulted in over $260 million in revenue. The film cracked the top-25 advance ticket sellers of all-time and still remains as the highest-grossing documentary ever.