The Beatles liked Michael Jackson's music

How Michael Jackson, on the advice of Paul McCartney, acquired the publishing rights for the Beatles song catalog

Giving helpful advice to a friend is often human best. If that advice comes back to bite the very person who offered it in the first place, it can be a gruesome twist of fate.

Just ask Paul McCartney. The Beatles singer / songwriter found himself at the wrong end of the above scenario when words of wisdom conveyed to his friend Michal Jackson returned to haunt him over the rights to the Beatles song catalog that Jackson would acquire in 1985.

McCartney taught Jackson how lucrative it was to own other artist's catalogs

McCartney and Jackson became friends in the mid-1970s when they met to discuss possible songwriting collaborations. The two would eventually score hits with the duets "The Girl Is Mine". The lead single from Jackson's hit album thriller (1982) and & # x201C; Say, say, say & # x201D; It was featured on McCartney's album Whistle of Peace (1983).

During this period of mutually beneficial collaboration, McCartney Jackson explained how lucrative music publishing rights could be, especially given the fact that in the late 1960s McCartney had lost his stake in Northern Songs, the publisher he founded with Beatle- Colleague John Lennon. After writing many of the Beatles & # x2019; McCartney was understandably very unhappy that he was no longer receiving full and ongoing compensation from the catalog.

& # x201C; Very early on, we got ourselves into a little situation, & # x201D; McCartney reported in a 1989 interview that he originally lost the rights. & x201C; That means that the lion's share of the songs we made was taken over by someone else. & x201D;

Perhaps McCartney had begun regaining the rights to other artists' catalogs (including Buddy Hollys) in order to explain to Jackson the benefits of owning the already beloved music rights from the public. Jackson took the information to heart and joked to McCartney that one day he would own the former Beatles' songs. McCartney believed his friend was joking, but in 1985 the joke became a reality and the friendship broke off.

Jackson paid $ 47.5 million to own the Beatles' catalog

In the mid-1980s, the Beatles catalog had passed into the possession of the ATV company, which was headed by Australian billionaire Robert Holmes a Court and seemed ready to outsource the coveted collection to the highest bidder. ATV owned the rights to 251 Beatles songs, including & x201C; Hey Jude & x201D; & # x201C; Yesterday & # x201D; and Let It Be, plus 4,000 other tracks and a library of sound effects. Jackson hired consumer electronics attorney and manager John Branca to purchase the catalog on his behalf.

Branca reportedly reached out to McCartney and Lennon's widow, Yoko Ono, to discuss their plans regarding the proposed sale. In late 1984, on behalf of Jackson, Branca made an initial bid for ATV worth $ 30 million, which would eventually increase to $ 46 million.

Negotiations continued into the following year, when Jackson and Holmes instituted legal proceedings and pulled out of the deal several times, and Holmes lawyers initially feared that Jackson would bid for his friend McCartney. Although it did not, negotiations continued until Jackson increased his offer to $ 47.5 million and the deal was closed on August 10, 1985.

Paul McCartney poses with Michael Jackson, Michael Grant and Junior Waite of Musical Youth at the British Record Industry Awards in February 1983

Photo: Dave Hogan / Getty Images

McCartney called Jackson's purchase 'seedy'

McCartney wasn't pleased. & # x201C; I think it is dubious to do such a thing. & # x201D; he once said about buying. "Be someone's friend and then buy the carpet they're standing on." The gap was so great that McCartney and Jackson rarely spoke to each other again. Jackson, for his part, generally remained tense about the incident. & # x201C; Paul and I both learned a lot about the business. & # x201D; The King of Pop wrote in his autobiography in 1988 Moon walk, and the importance of releases and royalties and the dignity of songwriting. & # x201D;

The purchase would further help Jackson maintain his already lush lifestyle, and by the late 1990s, McCartney believed it was time to get a raise for his part of the songwriting equation. "I wrote a couple of letters to [Jackson], Michael, don't think that after 30 years of success in this company that you now own, you don't believe I could." a raise? & # x201D; McCartney told David Letterman in a 2009 interview. Jackson's response to his question was, "Oh Paul, this is just a matter."


McCartney didn't like that, Jackson 'commercialized' the Beatles' music-

And that's exactly what Jackson was about with his new acquisition. Beatles songs suddenly became fodder for commercials, a lucrative Jackson move that McCartney condemned in 1989. The Beatles would have deliberately avoided such commercial use, McCartney said, despite having numerous offers. & # x201C; It kind of spoils it. Just take the edge of it. Our songs tend to get a little commercialized now, which I'm not too crazy about. & # X201D;

A decade after the initial deal, Jackson sold 50 percent of the ATV to Sony for $ 95 million and founded the music publisher Sony / ATV, which today not only owns the rights to Beatles songs, but also to other artists such as Bob Dylan and Marvin Gaye and Lady Gaga, Taylor Swift, Hank Williams and Roy Orbison.

Despite reports, McCartney was not relinquished the rights to the catalog after Jackson's death

After Jackson's untimely death in 2009 at the age of 50, McCartney spoke of his admiration for the "thriller". Singer to Letterman and said, "He was a lovely man." Very talented and we miss him. & # X201D; During the same interview, McCartney admitted that the once-friendly duo drifted apart after Jackson's purchase of the catalog. and that despite rumors to the contrary, there had never been a major bankruptcy. & # x201D;

After Jackson's death, rumors circulated that he would cede the rights to the catalog to McCartney, an idea the former Beatle did not believe. & # x201C; Some time ago, the media got the idea that Michael Jackson would have his share of the Beatles & # x2019; Songs for me in his will, & # x201D; McCartney wrote on his website. & # x201C; [It] was entirely made up. & # x201D;

Seven years after Jackson's death, Sony / ATV agreed to pay $ 750 million in the deceased artist's estate to buy the remaining 50 percent of the company's shares. The Beatles catalog alone was valued at over $ 1 billion.

Following a lawsuit in a US court in 2017, McCartney reached an agreement with Sony / ATV over copyright for the Beatles catalog under the US Copyright Act of 1976, according to which songwriters reclaim copyright from music publishers 35 years after it was released can. A McCartney attorney has not notified the judge that the two parties have resolved this matter by entering into a confidential settlement agreement.

By Colin Bertram

Colin Bertram is a writer and editor specializing in entertainment and news journalism.


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