THRILLER RESTORED: THE FIRST REAL INVESTMENT FOR MICHAEL JACKSON’S LEGACY

  Last summer began with a few MJ’ estate executor’s interviews informing the fans that there would be no other forms of un-released songs or albums, but there would soon be an announcement of new projects. In fact, (I cannot say the timing was like a Swiss watch) a press release announcing a special Michael… Continue reading THRILLER RESTORED: THE FIRST REAL INVESTMENT FOR MICHAEL JACKSON’S LEGACY

1987: the “Bad album” and Michael Jackson alone at the top

 

While MEDIA’s acclaim the 30 years of the BAD album today’s we remember very well that it wasn’t like that in 1987.  Michael Jackson had to earn media respect been beyond reproach for his fantastic work. (As always).  Since January 1984, the world awaited the successor of “Thriller”.  But month after month became year after year and that damn album was pushed back to a date “TBN” (to be nominated) and Michael loquacity matched the Neanderthal man, so, Media was “forced” scribbling soap opera stuff.

aThen the usual litany: the oxygen tank, the llama, the boa, Liz Taylor, the mask, the aesthetic surgery, the Elephant Man bones he wanted to buy at the London Museum. Tabloids criticized him for refusing to license the Beatles to the Beastie Boys and slammed him for exploiting another Beatles song licensed to Nike; well… all this sort of thing…

 mikey832Worldwide “professional” editorialists of that time printed the same rumours: “This guy is clearly a nutcase! He has animals at home and a boa under his buffalo skin bed and a chimpanzee flipping over the fridge in the kitchen. Is mad, is he not?” What else’s…ah yes! “The weirdo prefers to be in the company of Liz Taylor’s rather than socialize with others of his own age. And to complete the picture, he decided not to release any album before having an irreproachable product to offer to his public… Pfft… A sort of toddler (black…) who does what he pleases…” And then what else? “He has no girlfriend. And WOW! He believes in God!” Trivial scandal! All MEDIA stigmatized these as “abominations”… But what was so awful and abominable? 

When –  after “Thriller”-  a journalist asked Quincy Jones how long it would have taken to release a new album he answered: “Twenty years if it necessary.  It will be the end of a trilogy and for me, the trilogy is a fundamental thing. The third step must always be very different from the previous two. Therefore, it will create a surprise by changing style …we had already planned it”.  

Nobody, in any case, would have wanted to be in Michael Jackson “moccasins”, with such weight, such historical responsibility to assume (no matter what could have happened, nobody would have ever repro to his producer Quincy Jones). So in 1985 – when the “Victory” drama tour ended – Michael Jackson and Quincy Jones got into the studio to start preparing the world the successor of Thriller.

 

At this point, we must call on our help the chronology of facts.

The music industry was pretty hectic those days and the release of Bad suffered many delays NOT due to MJ and his production –  as modern “legends” tells us – but to external problems that kept coming up against the release.

For those who look back on the 80s as a great music decade, we can’t stress how wrong you are. For every great song, there were a thousand audio craps which made up the mainstream. It doesn’t look like anyone’s bothered to upload many of them to the internet. At that time, pop music was still a good business but the audience tastes were rapidly changing due to the emergence of new music genres in the international stage creating a healthy competition in terms of international ranking.

New band like Guns n’ Roses, R.E.M, Bon Jovi, U 2 and many others were defining the end of the 80s launching a new music scene which exploded in the 90s. And it’s hard to believe now, but MTV was awesome back then. Its rock shows and “alternative” shows were simply gorgeous. A band like Nirvana appeared on Top of the Pops and attracted a legion of teen fans. 

Pop artists such Madonna, Whitney Huston, Prince, George Michael, Janet Jackson were experimenting new sounds to keep up with the times. And Michael Jackson with them.

So, while Michael in 1985 composed and recorded with Lionel Richie “We Are The World at the Westlake Studio, West Hollywood,  Prince released  “Around The World In a Day” 

and in 1986 a new album (Under the Cherry Red Moon) and the homonym movie which both resulted in a flop.

Michael, under the guidance of Quincy Jones, kept recording at the Westlake Studios. And CBS begin to inquire, push and pressure for a new album.

But MJ was a busy guy and was spending his time between recording studio and movie set. In fact, in 1986 the 3D science fiction film “Captain EO”  directed by Francis Ford Coppola (who came up with the name “Captain EO” from EOS, the Greek goddess of dawn) reached the public.

Two new MJ songs appeared in the film. The first was an early mix of “Another Part of Me” and “We are Here to Change the World” ( which was not officially released until 2004 as part of  “Michael Jackson: The Ultimate Collection”).

In September 1986 Quincy Jones contacted the Run-DMC that was on tour in Paris because Michael wanted to work with them. They had “Walk This Way” number one in the US since fifteen weeks. Their comment was: ” We hesitated”. Actually, they didn’t hesitate at all. They ran to Westlake Studios and meet with Michael and Quincy but they could not get in tune with their rap –  something, according to Quincy Jones  – was missing from their lyrics. He told them to try to rap with more sophistication on it but again could get anything together and then they left.

In November 1986 Martin Scorsese shoots with Michael Jackson the short film for “Bad” It was filmed in Brooklyn’s Hoyt Schermerhorn station.

Despite the profuse literature describing MJ delaying the release of the album to get a product that surpass the sales of “Thriller”, news of that time give different pieces of information reporting the delay of the release due to Musical Industry intrigues for power and marketing and not for the “abominable” Michael Jackson research of perfection- para-mania.

In an article on “Rock This Town” (September 1986), Philippe Manoeuvre describes in a semi-serious form an anecdote that actually took place in 1986 and early 1987.
“December 1986 CBS called “Strike” on Michael Jackson: the album was finished and ready but CBS did not want it! What happened? It happened that Bruce Springsteen – against all odd – authorized the publication of a box with five discs and other amenities of his live concerts recording. If CBS was going to release during the same month Bruce and Michael it would have placed a big dilemma”. 

Here you can read few old billboard screenshot related to music recording industry games on November / December 1986

And here below Walter Yetnikoff 1988 interview to Rolling Stone magazine.

walterN.B. Thriller mist the Christmas sale as well?…

Taking these facts into account, a change of perspective on many episodes is due. Including Michael Jackson’s pissy mood at the 1988 Grammy,

Because – apart from the Grammy award-winning technicalities rules – it’s quite impossible to win a Grammy in 1988 with an album released at the end of the previous summer, with just a few months of sales and a 4 singles published. And MJ was really aware of it. And maybe because of that episode, the Dangerous album was released on November 26, 1991, bringing “home” three American Music Awards in 1993 without counting Billboard, Soul Train Music Awards, and others worldwide.

In addition, the delay in releasing Bad had Michael tied up financially: long leagues away from imagining that CBS would push back the release of “Bad”, Michael had planned to flood the market with a branded clothing and doll lines, ballpoint pens, “love necklaces” and perfumes which he financed for about 20 million of dollars, plus a 10 million dollars “standby” deal with Pepsi that consequently had to cancel its advertising campaign.

Well: when you have just invested 47 million dollars in ATV, these kinds of delay could seriously upset anyone. So it was obvious that when the album finally hits the shelves Michael rode the international scene cravings for murder…

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On February 1987 Springsteen live box beats all records of the unsold, as consequences of CBS and the American store’s greediness, which seemed to have the eyes bigger than their belly. As in the United States, the record stores can send the unsold units to the record companies, CBS got back “home” about 700,000 boxes. In March 1987 a terrified Yetnikoff discovered that Michael and Quincy Jones returned in the West Lake West Hollywood studio. It seems they wanted to redo everything again. But considering that four months before the release of Thriller, Michael returned to the studio to add to the album two odds and ends such “Billy Jean” and “Beat It” everyone shut their mouth.

Meanwhile, Prince manager announced the release of a quintuple album in a box.

Finally, in May 1987 Michael Jackson and Quincy Jones give to CBS the master of Bad. 

But … to top it off, someone realized that rapper L.L. Cool J. was also releasing an album untitled Bad. Clearly, L L. Cool was asked to stop his bullshit. His album came out with a “bad” print on the cover but on the catalogue, the album was named in extremis “Bigger and Deffer”. (Once a thief, always a thief…)

Now have you ever waited for a release like that? The answer is: NO. To find mediatic traces of a similar frenzy it is necessary to go back to the filming of the third episode, of the Stars War saga.  And the deliriant expectation that separated Bad from Thriller became more and more. The album was already known. It was already one of the most known in the history of music. The titles were already whispered; Speed Damon, Street Walker, Smooth Criminal, Dirty Diana, Bad…And two months before its release!

Then finally on July 22, 1987, the single teaser “I just cannot stop loving you” was released. It was a paradisiacal slow. The track starts with a monologue whispering and continues likewise. Charming, subtle, but in no way vulnerable.

“People do not understand me / That’s because they do not know me at all / I just want to touch! Hold you / I need you. I love you so much … “ The irruption of the chorus aspires the listeners in the sonic master and great rolls of timbales. In two listening, no more, the melody is inscribed in our subconscious.

But the album starts with “Bad” and immediately we are killed on the spot. Huge, devastating, meticulous mime, urban, the single is a rhythmic bomb, with a sound that wakes up the dead. No Run DMC, as the story suggested, but a splendid organ solo by jazzman Jimmy Smith.

The wording “I’m Bad” carries the piece like an avalanche. This famous sound, which will transfigure the songs throughout the album, is really worthy of another dimension. One must approach perfection in the matter, it is not an accumulation or a breathtaking sum of ingredients, but rather, a science, the art of blend.

Dirty Diana start with an intro worthy of a horror movie, the false live atmosphere, the public shouting, that this  Diana bitch is going to get what she deserves. This is the track that will cause forever the following question: this Diana whose does every musician, this first-class bitch is it or is it not Ross who counts in the sentimental, sexual life of the recluse MJ? The song, anyway, beats hard, is the Beat it of Bad within a guitar chorus without pity, in which one recognizes Steve Stevens hands, lead guitarist of Billy Idol’s .

“Smooth Criminal” with a fantastic intro (the intros are  Michael Jackson’s own genius), and other swings in the gums confirm MJ is BAD!

The Way You Make Me Feel, remember the Jackson 5,  the fleshy, melodic rhythm & blues filled with female chats, Michael forgets his barking in the beginning of the sentences, and his voice goes up to vertiginous heights.

Speed Demon it’s like a punch from Mike Tyson.

Here we stop because don’t consider ourselves music critics. We have just read many reviews during these 30 years and listened countless of time the album.

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Then, when the Bad World Tour started, the MEDIA tune changed….had no choice but change…Why? Because numbers never lie. Michael Jackson’s first World Tour was the biggest grossing tour ever. It was a 2 leg tour in which Michael performed 123 concerts to an estimated 4.4 million fans.

 

[Read what EBONY MAGAZINE  – April 1989 – had to say about the legendary Bad Tour]:

“Megastar entertainer drew 4.4 million fans, earned $125 million on Bad tour, now says he will retire from stage to market records, films
It had been announced as the “farewell concert,” and the crowd that jammed the Los Angeles Sports Arena showed its love: “Michael! Michael!” the thousands chanted as the stage smoke cleared, the lights and lasers dimmed, and Michael Jackson, exhausted after two hours of nonstop singing and dancing, made his way to his dressing room.The man now called “the greatest entertainer in the world” had just sung the last note dazzled with the final “moonwalk” of a grueling, 16-month tour that had taken him almost around the world for 123 concerts in 15 countries that drew 4.4 million fans and grossed $ 125 million — more than any other entertainer has ever grossed on a single tour.

After some kind words and embraces for the family and friends he had invited backstage, Michael said his thanks and goodbyes to the crew of his “Bad” tour, then sped off into the night to rest before beginning work on new album and movie projects. The tour, Michael’s first without his brother — Jackie, Tito, Marlon, and Randy of The Jacksons — began in Japan in the fall of 1987 and moved to Australia, the U.S. and Europe, then back to Japan before ending in January in Los Angeles.

The Japanese, who turned out 450,000 strong to see him were as affected by “Michaelmania” as the other four million who jammed stadiums on several continents, sometimes paying “scalpers” as much as $1,000 for a ticket, many of which had been forged.

The concert frenzy boosted sales of Michael’s Bad album to more than 20 million [his Thriller album has sold some 40 million worldwide, and is the biggest-selling album in history], spawning unprecedented five No. 1 singles: “I Can’t Stop Loving You,” “The Way You Make Me Feel,” “Bad,” “Man in the Mirror” and “Dirty Diana,” and helping sales of his autobiography, Moonwalk [some 450,000 copies have been sold in 14 countries], and video, Moonwalker, which has sold over 500,000 copies in the U.S. alone. Wherever he appeared, Michael drew celebrities in droves: Prince Charles and Princess Diana, Ava Gardner, Joan Collins and Harrison Ford in London; Sophia Loren and Gina Lollobrigida [who had not spoken to each other in years until Michael brought them together for a photo] in Rome; Elizabeth Taylor and Bob Dylan in Geneva; Grace Jones and designer Patrick Kelly in Paris; opera star Placido Domingo in Hamburg; Altovise Davis and Roger Moore in Nice, and Gregory Peck, Barbara Streisand, Sylvester Stallone and Sidney Poitier in Los Angeles. At most stops, Michael showed his concern for underprivileged children by inviting them to concerts as his personal guests and by contributing to hospitals, orphanages, and other charities. In New York, he donated $600,000 to the United Negro College Fund, boosting the UNCF/Michael Jackson Scholars program that now funds the education of 78 students at Black colleges.

It is no exaggeration to say that much of the entire world waits to see if, at age 30, after 25 years in the spotlight, Michael will indeed “retire.”

Or as with Muhammad Ali, Sugar Ray Leonard, Frank Sinatra and others, will the familiar roar of the crowd bring him back on stage for at least one more encore”.

 

Note: “Leave Me Alone”  was released on February 1989, as the eighth single from the album, though only outside of the United States and Canada. “Leave Me Alone” was recorded during the original album sessions but the song only appeared on the CD editions of Bad as a bonus track, as well as on the 2001 cassette edition.  Internationally, the song peaked at No. 1 and two in Ireland and the United Kingdom respectively and reaching the top 10 in Belgium, New Zealand and Spain.

 

 

The short film – which is a masterpiece in our opinion – was the recipient of a Grammy Award in 1990 for Best Music Video.  Despite the success of the single, the song never appeared on any of Jackson’s world concert tours.

So, that’s how this so much awaited, mocked, celebrated and feared album came to life.

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Sources:

  • “Michael Jackson”  Biographie  – P. Manoeuvre (1988)
  • “MICHAEL JACKSON” de Tom Lamotta (1988)
  • “Sequins & Shades “The Michael Jackson reference Guide” De Carol D. Terry  (1987)
  • Les Enfants du rock (1986)
  • Wikipedia

 

 

Inside Quincy Jones lawsuit: Partial Judgment Verdict explained

_9d12ea2e-74cb-11e6-b2a9-95c0be591517[1]On November 2016, the Judge ruled that Sony would be a non-participant in the trial on two causes of action in Quincy Jones’ lawsuit for breach of contracts. Although Sony was a defendant in the suit, it was not a party to the trial, which was focused only on Quincy Jones’ breach of contract claims against MJJ Productions Inc.  Sony is not named as a defendant on those counts but is named on a third count such “accounting”.  The “expert report opinion” already in the web represent the whole claims made to Sony and MJJP.

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Why a partial judgment verdict? Sony did not present yet the relevant documents and/or hired suitable experts to support and clarify the issues and damages of the “expert report”. That’s the reason why it could not be discussed during the judgment.  We would not be surprised if – at the end –  Sony will choose a way in the middle, settling the matter with a confidential agreement with Quincy Jones. 

Unlike  MJ Estate rude and arrogant lawyers –  going to media announcing an appeal – Sony lives of these tricks and knows the game rules.  They have precise policies regarding auditing claims and we do not think they wish to be brought back to court for almost the same subject. 

See: (https://www.musicbusinessworldwide.com/sony-sued-musicians-union-us-violating-collective-agreement/)

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The first complaint is related to the 1978 breach of contract between MJJP (MJ estate entities) and The Quincy Jones production. 

Michael Jackson and Quincy Jones met during the shooting of the movie “The Wiz.”  and They built a relationship and decided to work together. So their companies entered into an agreement dated as of November 1978. (See contract copy HERE:  1978jpg2pdf).  Jones to produce all of the master recordings to be embodied on Michael’s upcoming fifth studio album “Off The Wall” to be released by Sony (at the time still CBS). Under this contract,  Jones also produced all of the master recordings of Michael Jackson’s sixth studio album  “Thriller”. Furthermore, there is a restriction clause on re-editing and/or re-mixing the Masters that constituted an additional compensation to Jones under each of the album agreements. If MJJ wanted one or more of the Masters re-edited or remixed, MJJ would have had to pay Jones for such services at fair market rate, which would have included both an upfront payment and a so-called “backend,” consisting of a percentage of the receipts derived from the exploitation of the audio and/or audio-visual works embodying such re-edited and/or re-mixed Masters.

The Agreements also provided that:  

  •  MJJ had to pay to Jones royalties for the commercial exploitation of the Masters in records, including phonorecords;  
  • Sony to account directly to Jones under Jackson’s recording agreement with Sony for the royalties and MJJ account to Jones for such royalties if Sony does not do so;
  • Grant to Jones the right to approve Jones’ likeness and biographical material in connection with the exploitation of the Masters; and pay to Jones royalties for the commercial exploitation of the Masters in audiovisual works.

 

 

Questions 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8 have determined what is written above:

  • That’s Quincy Jones, has these agreements with the estate entities.
  • That’s the movie “This Is It”, the Cirque live show “Michael Jackson: ONE”, the Cirque live show “Michael Jackson: The IMMORTAL World Tour”,  The album “IMMORTAL” contain re-mixes or re-edits of the master recordings produced by Quincy Jones under the 1978 producer agreement. 
  • That Under the 1978 producer agreement, Quincy Jones has the right to the first opportunity to perform re-mixes or re-edits limited  only when Sony required the remix or re-edit of master recordings from “Off the Wall” or “Thriller”
  • That for the above projects, Quincy Jones did not waive the right to have the first opportunity to create remixes or re-edits of master recordings from “Thriller” and/or “Off the Wall”.
  • That MJJ Productions fail to provide Quincy Jones with the first opportunity to remix or re-edit master recordings from “Off the Wall” and “Thriller” under the 1978 producer agreement on any of in respect of the above-mentioned projects.

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  • That  Quincy Jones was harmed by MJJ Productions’ failure to give him the first opportunity to create remixes or re-edits under the 1978 producer agreement.
  • Questions 9, and 10 subjects moved on  Michael Jackson recording agreement date 1975 and the relevant amendment made in 1981  and the Jury have determined that the movie “This Is It”, the Cirque live show “Michael Jackson: The IMMORTAL World Tour”, Cirque live show “Michael Jackson: ONE” cannot be considered records and for this reason Quincy Jones is not entitled to receive royalties based on his 1978 agreement by MJJP.

Questions 11 and 12 have determined:

  • That under the 1978 producer agreement, Quincy Jones is entitled to a share of money from the 2009 joint venture agreement between Michael Jackson and Sony in addition to monies previously paid to Quincy Jones.
  • That under the 1978 producer agreement, MJJ Productions failed to pay Quincy Jones a share of the money of the 2009 joint venture agreement between Michael Jackson and Sony in addition to monies previously paid to Quincy Jones.

Question 13 has determinate that under the 1978 producer agreement,  Quincy Jones is not entitled to a share of SoundExchange, foreign public performance income, and foreign income tax deductions, so question 14 was skipped.

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The second complaint concern the contract between MJJ (the new Michael Jackson company) and  Jones company  QJP dated as of December 1, 1985. (See contract copy HERE: 1985   )

Their incredibly successful partnership carried on producing all of the master recordings of Jackson’s seventh studio album  “Bad.

 

Michael Jackson entered into various amendments of his recording agreement with Epic Records, a subsidiary of Sony (known as CBS Records, Inc.), and the Recording Agreement, among other things, contains the “Producer Terms”.     While Sony partially complied with such Producer Terms in connection with the Masters produced by Jones, after Michael Jackson’s death, those in charge of his estate entities, began releasing new audio and audiovisual works without regard to the terms of either of the Agreements.

Question 15, 16, 17,18, 19, 20, 21  have determined as follows: 

  • That Quincy Jones and MJJ Productions entered into a 1985 producer agreement
  • That  the movie “This Is It”, the Cirque live show “Michael Jackson: ONE”, the Cirque live show “Michael Jackson: The IMMORTAL World Tour”,  the album “IMMORTAL” and the album “Bad 25th Anniversary Edition” contain re-mixes or re-edits of the master recordings produced by Quincy Jones under the 1985 producer agreement.
  • That under the 1985 producer agreement, Quincy Jones have the right to the first opportunity to perform re-mixes or re-edits limited to only those situations where Sony or MJJ Productions required the remix or re-edit of master recordings from “Bad”
  • That the projects listed above-contained re-mixes or re-edits, Sony or MJJ Productions required the remixing or re-editing of master recordings from “Bad.
  • That for the above projects, Quincy Jones did not waive the right to have the first opportunity to create remixes or re-edits of master recordings from “Bad”

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  • That MJJ Productions failed to provide Quincy Jones with the first opportunity to remix or re-edit master recordings from “Bad” under the 1985 producer agreement on any of the above projects.
  • that Quincy Jones’s was harmed by MJJ Productions’ failure to give him the first opportunity to create remixes or re-edits under the 1985 producer agreement.

Question 22 has determined that the movie “This Is It” is considered a video shows under 1985 producer agreement, but the Cirque live show “Michael Jackson: The IMMORTAL World Tour” and the Cirque live show “Michael Jackson: ONE” are NOT video shows (actually they are considered theatrical scenes) 

For the above reason the jury determined in question 23 that MJJ Productions failed to pay Quincy Jones for the video show the movie “This is it” but they do not have to pay him for the Cirque live show “Michael Jackson: The IMMORTAL World Tour” and the Cirque live show “Michael Jackson: ONE”.

Question 24, 25, 26 and 27 have determined:

  • That under the 1985 producer agreement, Quincy Jones is entitled to a share of money from the 2009 joint venture agreement between Michael Jackson and Sony in addition to monies previously paid to Quincy Jones.
  • That under the 1985 producer agreement, Quincy Jones is entitled to a share of SoundExchange, foreign public performance income, and foreign income tax deductions.
  • That under the 1985 producer agreement, MJJ Productions fail to pay Quincy Jones a share of SoundExchange, foreign public performance income, and foreign income tax deductions.

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The jury award is the interesting part because many fans have not realized that “the expert report” opinion examined Quincy Jones claim’s for an average amount of 30 million is intended for both defendants. (MJJP and Sony).

Here below you can see the comparable damage requests for the first 2 causes of actions and relevant  Jury awards and the theoretical  “expert request” opinion:

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“It was never our practice to cheat … Mr. Jones, you’re creating a false impression.” as Branca said during one of his testimony when debate became heated, sound a little over the top. Come on! An accounting mistake of 10 million would create a false impression toward everyone! If the Estate doesn’t want the world to think they are a sort of cheaters the minimum would be to change the accounting TEAM.
Mr. Cool Branca. Yeah, be a good boy and….

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The third cause of action claims is “Accounting” and is Sony related. Here you can see the no comparable claims. 

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** Legal Challenges The common position on how labels compensate artists for digital downloads has been challenged through various litigations between labels and digital music service providers, such as iTunes. These are licenses subject to a 50-50 split of the proceeds between the label and the artist, rather than a sale by the label through regular retail channels. This license need be reclassified with the digital music distributors as a license rather than a sale, a shift that would significantly bump the 50 split of revenue received by the label after deducting the mechanical royalty license fee for the music on the sound recording.  In short, it is an open problem between music distributors.

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Then on August 2016,  another 11 million was added for amounts received by MJJP in connection with the film “This Is it.” It involves the “net receipts” derived from a series of calculation between the companies involved in the production.  The amount is theoretical because for the time being it could not be ascertained due to lack of documents.

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Aside all that’s happened in Courtroom,  we would like to remind everyone out there that Quincy Jones is considered one of the preeminent superstar producers in the music industry, with a reputation for producing the highest quality master recordings and some of the best-selling records in history. His career spans over six decades in the entertainment industry, a record 79 Grammy Award nominations, and 27 Grammy Awards, including a Grammy Legend Award in 1991.

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Quincy Jones had provided services as a producer, arranger, and musician for artists such as Frank Sinatra, Ella Fitzgerald, Dinah Washington and many others. 

Michael Jackson’s career started in or about 1964 with the band “The Jackson Brothers,” which shortly after became known as “The Jackson 5.” The group has sold over 100 million albums and Michael Jackson as a “solo” artist was one of the most prominent recording artists of his generation, with a long track record of some of the best-selling records in history and the world’s greatest entertainer. Michael has influenced so many artists, some of whom are picking up on the grandeur and showmanship of his live performances. And still rocks!

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Quincy Jones expressed very well his sentiment about all this: 

“As an artist, maintaining the vision and integrity of one’s creation is of paramount importance. I, along with the team I assembled with Michael, took great care and purpose in creating these albums, and it has always given me a great sense of pride and comfort than three decades after they were originally recorded, these songs are still being played in every corner of the world. This lawsuit was never about Michael, it was about protecting the integrity of the work we all did in the recording studio and the legacy of what we created. Although this it was about protecting the integrity of the work we all did in the recording studio and the legacy of what we created. Although this judgment is not the full amount that I was seeking, I am very grateful that the jury decided in our favor in this matter. I view it not only as a victory for myself personally but for artists’ rights overall” 

Jones and Jackson proved to be a perfect partnership, starting with 1979’s Off the Wall. Michael gave a youthful pop vitality to Jones, who was known primarily as a producer and arranger of jazz and film soundtracks and Jones lent experience and gravitas to Jackson. And this is part of  MUSIC HISTORY.

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Sources:

  • DOCUMENTS OF SUPERIOR COURT OF THE STATE OF CALIFORNIA FOR THE COUNTY OF LOS ANGELES, CENTRAL DISTRICT QUINCY JONES LAWSUIT.
  • http://www.internetmedialaw.com
  • Mark Halloran:  “The Musician’s Business and Legal Guide, Fifth Edition”   
  • Rolling stone magazine (various numbers)

The Truth About Michael Jackson and Sony Agreements: Guess how many times Michael had to Audit them?

When Michael Jackson appeared in Harlem with Al Sharpton’s National Action Network for their Music Industry Initiative, on July 6, 2002, he blamed and described the recording industry itself as racist and denounced the injustice of the music industry against artists, dead and alive.

Tabloids jumped immediately on the bandwagon and there was no shortage of media coverage of the outburst, which spectacularly backfired on him.  Most media accounts dismissed the episode as just one more example of Michael Jackson’s notoriously bizarre and eccentric behavior.  The usual mockery headlines tried to convince readers that what was happening, was not just a black-and-white issue.

 Actually, there was more than a black and white issue for him: it was about big businesses and a questionable distribution of wealth.

Wendy Day, founder of the artist advocacy group Rap Coalition said: ‘MJ’s problem is like racism: when you’re not the person being oppressed, you tend not to see it.’

By examining the documents of the many financial procedures conducted against Michael, at this point, we can give a sequence of the facts that happened “behind the headlines” quite accurately:

With the speech in Harlem Michael was trying to let people know how the music industry was hopelessly corrupt. 

Since the inception of Sony/ATV, the partners agreed to acquire additional music catalogs in order to expand the company. The MJ Trust borrowed about $270,000,000 to support the purchase of additional catalogs at Sony/ATV, and to support various other working capital needs.

Sony provided the lenders to the MJ Trust, a credit enhancement for which Sony received additional payments of about $9,000,000 annually. The purchase of the additional catalogs was delayed, while Sony directed the money that MJ borrowed in other directions, one was the merging its recorded-music division with Bertelsmann’s BMG. And from Court documents, we also clearly understood that in 2002 Michael was in negotiations to take back from Sony the licensing of the distribution of his master recording catalog and decided not to renew his recording contract with them and proceed to buy out Sony’s 50 percent stake in their joint venture, Sony/ATV. Sony balked. And it was the beginning of a whole series of shading episodes to destabilize his finances, a peculiarity which distinguished Michael Jackson during the last decade of his life.

Michael was more politically savvy than what people gave him credit for.  Prince, putting the word ‘slave’ on himself in his struggle with Warner Music, didn’t reach out. He made race an issue to some degree, but he didn’t exploit black consciousness. Michael reached out to the black community successfully, as evidenced by the enthusiastic presence during his rallies.

But it only took a couple of comments from the few “insiders” to trigger the usual media war against him. Media trashed Michael Jackson, pictured him a star of bizarre behaviors and had made him a joke in the English-speaking parts of the world.  And who was behind the Media headlines knew very well. 

  • Media said that Michael was upset that his last album “Invincible” had sold only 2 million copies and that he was desperate to save his career. It Was a FALSE statement: despite the problems, Invincible went to number one across the world, and Michael received many awards for his achievement. During an interview, in October 2001, Michael Jackson said in response to the comment that the Invincible album was number 1 worldwide and that he had another number 1 hit, “It’s a great honor…we worked very hard on it, I feel blessed that the fans accepted it the way they did and I am very honored. I really am. I don’t take anything for granted. Every time there is a number 1 album or song I feel excited as if it was the 1st one. So I am very happy about that”. Worldwide sales figures listed for the album is anywhere between 8 million to 13 million. It went to Number 1 in eleven countries, including the US. If that’s a flop then I bet a lot of artists wish they had more flops. 

Invincible (2001)

USA : 2.500.000 – Canada : 140.000 – Mexique : 75.000 – Argentine : 30.000 Japan : 225.000 – Singapour : 25.000  – South Korea: 80.000 – Australia : 170.000 – New Zeland : 15.000  Europe : 2.220.000 – UK : 400.000 – France : 575.000 – Germany : 325.000 – Spain : 125.000 – Italy : 175.000 – The Netherland : 100.000 – Sweden : 50.000 – Finland : 16.700 – Austria : 25.000 – Switzerland : 60.000  – Portugal :20.000 – Norway : 50.000 – Danemark : 20.000 – Belgium : 75.000 Turkey : 200.000 – Worldwide Estimation : 7.100.000

Media said that Michael went crazy and that speech was nothing more than a way for him to get more attention. It was a FALSE statement: 7 weeks before Michael’s Harlem speech he was with President Clinton at the Democratic National Committee benefit concert and the press said he was a role model.

Why is it that when he decided to expose Sony that he became, all of a sudden, “a freak”?

However, Michael had many reasons to act that way. First of all looking into Court documents we found out that he had more than one audit against Sony and started auditing them since at least 1999.

Just to refresh the public’s memory,  at the beginning of the new millennium, it was not just Michael Jackson having problems with record companies. Many artists joined forces with the Artist Empowerment Coalition (“AEC”), a new activist organization rallying recording artists to put an end to what they believed was unfair business practices. In 2003 in New York City there was a benefit concert hosted by AEC.  Artist such as Roberta Flack, Faith Evans, Stevie Wonder, Tony Bennett and Hezekiah Walker invoked throughout the evening the names of those musical greats who, after huge recording successes, woke up one day and were unable to scrape together two nickels.  Blues legends like Billie Holiday and Bessie Smith were denied royalties and died indigent.

The main conflict had to do with a complex equation of copyright laws, publishing rights, royalty formulas, and expense recoupment —how money is paid out.

The paradox for artists was that while they’re obligated to pay back most of the costs for recording and promoting an album, labels retained control of the master recordings, which is essential to generating ongoing income from minims and greatest hits reprints. Record companies contend that they couldn’t exist without assets like masters. But the upside-down logic is not lost on Orrin Hatch (R-Utah), a sometime songwriter and a member of the U.S. Senate  Judiciary Committee. He observed the practice of the record business: the bank still owns the house after the mortgage is paid? — a point artists have been making for years–

With the battle between artists and record companies AEC was taking its cause to the legislature of New York State (the center of the music business) and on the other side they had the help of California Democratic state senator Kevin Murray; and a bill was introduced to repeal the music business’s exemption to the California’s seven-year contract rule. The little-known labor code allowed record companies to sue for damages if an artist did not complete an agreed upon specified number of albums regardless of how long that might take.

murray[1]  Senator Kevin Murray

Music industry execs predicted dire consequences for the California economy and foresaw fewer artists signings. But Murray was unmoved, calling the seven-year rule “a well-paid form of indentured servitude” that gives record companies unfair control of artists.

The debate over the seven-year rule inspired Murray to hold two additional hearings on the recording businesses’ accounting practices before the California Senate Select Committee on the Entertainment Industry last fall. For once the record companies were on the hot seat.

“UNDERPAYMENT OF ROYALTIES TO RECORDING ARTISTS AND PRODUCERS IS A PERVASIVE, CONSISTENT POLICY. THESE AREN’T ACCOUNTING ERRORS. THEY’RE SYSTEMATIC, OUTRIGHT THIEVERY.”

MJ believed that Sony, beside the Venture Agreements with them,  methodically diverted  revenues from him and his companies  in connection with the reproduction, use and exploitation of his musical assets, misguiding  such diverted revenues as “profits” instead of “royalties” by removing such disguised royalties from the pool of revenues upon which MJ royalties were calculated and  purposely reducing the royalties and his “Net Receipts” of it.  (Subparagraph 11.02 of Jackson’s 1985 recording agreement provides that Sony would credit Jackson’s account an amount equal to the portion of the foreign tax credits attributable to MJ’s royalties after a final audit by the IRS), but once the IRS completed its audit it became evident that Sony did not allocate to Michael Jackson a portion of the available tax credit.

irs85

On July 15, 2001, there was another of the many amendments to the agreement between Sony Music and its affiliates and Michael Jackson companies all heading to the main CBS recording artist contract dated December 31, 1990, and the joint –venture between them dated January 1991. It was apparently to resolve an issue related to the Foreign Royalty. The agreement states that upon the release of the Studio Album (as such term is defined in the 2001 Recording Agreement) and any album released hereafter which is a reissued version of any previously released album acquired or controlled by the Jackson Recordings Division (MJ controlled his Masters from “Off the Wall”) on and effective January 1, 2002, with respect to all other audio only phonograph records derived from master recordings acquired or controlled by the Jackson Recordings Division, subparagraph 7.02(c) of the Joint Venture Agreement was  modified by deleting the figure “twenty-three percent (23%)” contained therein and substituting the figure “twenty-five percent (25%)” therefor.

And with the above paragraph, we understand why just before and during the 4 months after the release of Invincible Sony placed in the market 4 reissues of MJ’s back catalog. There was a difference of 2% on royalties to be received by MJ starting in January 2002. So it would have been much better for them to release everything before such date and keeping a lower royalty rate.

There was also a change in the definitions of MJ Recording Agreement and we can read that there was a partial Audit settlement, where Sony Music had to credit $3,000,000 to MJJP’s royalty account. The audit period in controversy was through December 31, 1999, and there was still pending other claims and audits against Sony Music in connection with the payment of mechanical royalties.

With that occasion,  MJ returned back to Sony the equipment listed under their “End User Sales Agreement” dated as of August 20, 1995, and they had to credit another $300,000 to MJJP’s royalty account.

You can read in full HERE: 2001 amend JV

News of 2002 said that Rev. Al Sharpton knew that MJ was in negotiations with Sony but didn’t know if they had turned “hostile or not.” In fact, the issue was “hostile”: MJ had to use the conflict of interest due to Branca representing him and Sony and the Interfor investigation in order to partially close his recording artist

interfor

 contract with them and have Branca out of the picture. Unfortunately having a multitude of contract/agreements intersected with each other, neither Sony and Branca were out of MJ’s life for good. Contrary –  starting in 2003 –   the hard fight to destabilize MJ  financially was officially on “screen”.

That just confirms that the definition of Michael Jackson and Sony’s relationship was definitely the opposite of what it ought to have been.

Going through the Court documents we found out that Michael placed Sony under audits from 1999 up to 2009. It was already a story of incorrect royalty rates, failure to report royalties, failure to account for ancillary income and improper deduction of foreign income taxes.

Here an example:

mjj audit sony 2004 2009

audit

The last audit to Sony was ordered subsequent to Michael Jackson’s death and performed by Gelfand Rennert.

Then the probate court accepted as valid a “will” that Mr. Branca found in his office (a document that should not have been in his hands, because Michael Jackson ordered him for the first time in 2003 and with a final note in 2006  –  once he settled the unpleasant issue of the UCC1 –  to prepare all documents regarding him and his activities in possession of his law firm ready to be delivered to his new lawyers while sending all new communications to Allan Whitman).letter

The audit brought to the attention a miscalculation to Sonys benefit for digital download royalties of $3,376,000 USD for domestic digital downloads and of $3,341,000 USD for foreign downloads.

During a deposition held in connection with Quincy Jones lawsuit,  Mr. Branca declared that he did not remember if MJ was entitled to proceed with digital download calculated as license fees as distinct from retail sales, however, added that nobody ever won that kind of claim with a record label.

He was also be questioned if “it was the position that Jackson took in communicating with Sony that they were entitled to the several millions of dollars for digital downloads?” The answer was that usually Auditors take those positions and every artist would love to prevail on that, but none has.

To make a long story short, Mr. Branca had to admit that he authorized this audit report to be sent directly to Sony and ultimately settled for about 6 million of dollars as executor of the Michael Jackson estate on February 24th, 2014. The overall claim was for $27,400,000. and the settlement was for about $6,000,000 lump sum and there was zero allocated to the digital licensing claim. That’s mean less than 25 cents on the dollar.

That’s the way music industry audit works and concerning the good nature of the agreement with Sony …well …things you do for a good customer don’t you, Mr. Branca?

quote-remember-the-press-is-a-business-newspapers-and-magazines-are-in-business-to-make-money-michael-jackson-85-65-29[1]

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