Tuesday, August 4, 2015

This Date in Rock Music History: August 5

Calendar* Clarification: Michael Jackson and the Beatles' Catalog

There are several misconceptions concerning the catalog of the Beatles.  We will clear those up for you.

First, some websites say Michael Jackson acquired the rights to the songs on August 14, 1985, but the correct date is August 10, according to the book Michael Jackson in Memoriam by Javier Fisac Seco. 

Jackson took the advice of Paul McCartney and invested $47.5 million in the ATV catalog which contained 251 songs written by McCartney and John Lennon as well as songs by Pat Benatar, the Pretenders, and others.  Jackson made the purchase along with record company executive David Geffen, John Johnson, founder of Ebony magazine, and John Branca, who has handled the finances of scores of groups including the Rolling Stones and the Beach Boys.  McCartney had advised him to invest in music publishing a few years earlier, not knowing that Jackson would end up owning the Beatles' songs.  McCartney and Lennon had lost the rights to their songs in 1968 through a series of unfortunate events.

The Beatles had started Northern Songs Publishing in association with manager Brian Epstein and Dick James.  After Epstein died in 1967, James then sold his share of the company in 1968.  Paul McCartney and John Lennon tried at that time to buy the rights to their songs but were outbid. 

Then in 1981, McCartney and Yoko Ono (Lennon's widow) were offered the rights, now owned by ATV Publishing for $40 million.  Ono balked at the price, believing that the two could get the catalog for $20 million, so McCartney let the bid fall through.

Some websites say that Jackson outbid McCartney for the catalog on August 10, 1985, but according to the newspaper The Los Angeles Times, McCartney was not among the bidders.

Some websites claim that Jackson sold the rights to the ATV Catalog to Sony in 2008.  This isn't true either.  Sony and ATV merged in 2008 to create the world's largest publishing company, but Jackson retained one-half ownership in the ATV Catalog, which his heirs still own, according to Forbes magazine.  Incidentally, the ATV Catalog that Jackson purchased for $47.5 million in 1985 is worth over $1 billion today.

 McCartney had considered buying the rights back but thought the asking price too much.  By the way, the ATV catalog, which Jackson sold back to Sony in 2008, is now worth over one billion dollars. 

Calendar* Correction: Madonna's 'Like A Virgin' Album

Some websites say that on August 10, 1985, Like a Virgin by Madonna became the first album by a female artist to reach five million in sales.  This is incorrect.  According to the official website of the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA), Like a Virgin was certified as a five-million seller on July 22.