Michael The Music Activist Took A Stand In '03-And Just May Have Helped Usher In The Future of Music

Michael Became A Vocal Pro-Activist For Music Artists. But Did You Know He Was Also An Activist For YOU-The Fans?
Michael Became A Vocal Pro-Activist For Music Artists. But Did You Know He Was Also An Activist For YOU-The Fans?

Remember when this headline, featured on the home page of thepiratebay website, made a splash at the height of the SOPA protests in early 2012?

“Under SOPA, you could get five years for uploading a Michael Jackson song, one year more than the doctor who killed him.”

Well, seeing as how Murray only served two of those four years of which he was convicted, shall we rephrase that to…THREE more years than the doctor who killed him?

But how did Michael himself feel about the subject of pirated music and downloading, illegal or otherwise? Many music artists have taken a hardline stance against illegal downloading and file sharing. I can’t say that I blame them, entirely. After all, much of an artist’s revenue comes from the royalties of legally purchased music. Prince, for example, has been known to even go as far as to police uploaded videos of his music on Youtube.

More Than Just A Pretty Face...A Tireless Advocate Who Didn't Mind Stirring The Pot-Or Even Biting The Hand That Fed Him.
More Than Just A Pretty Face…A Tireless Advocate Who Didn’t Mind Stirring The Pot-Or Even Biting The Hand That Fed Him.

But in an era that has found many music artists at war with what seems an increasingly turning-and futile-tide, Michael’s own views were surprisingly progressive. Then again, perhaps that shouldn’t come as any surprise to those of us who have already been long aware of Michael’s activist role in the music industry. We already knew that Michael had spoken out against racism in the industry, and worked tirelessly to restore song rights to many black artists who were often bereft of their own royalties. But did you know about this?

In 2003, two Democratic lawmakers, John Conyers and Howard Berman, had introduced The Authors, Consumer and Computer Owners Protection and Security Act. The bill, if passed, would have made it a felony offense to illegally download music.

http://thomas.loc.gov/cgi-bin/query/z?c108:H.R.2752:

Michael delivered a press statement that apparently packed quite a punch in the summer of 2003. If he alone was not responsible for delivering the bill’s fatal blow, he nevertheless could certainly be credited for strengthening the public opposition against it.

“I am speechless about the idea of putting music fans in jail for downloading music. It is wrong to download but the answer cannot be jail,” Jackson said in a statement. “It is the fans that drive the success of the music business; I wish that would not be forgotten.

Here in America we create new opportunities out of adversity, not punitive laws,” he said. “We should look to new technologies, like Apple’s new Itunes Music Store, for solutions. This way, innovation continues to be the hallmark of America.”

http://www.hollywood.com/news/brief/1722880/michael-jackson-slams-music-piracy-bill

What exactly did he mean by “creat[ing} new opportunities out of adversity?” Simple. In 2003, the music industry was in a huge slump, with physical CD sales plummeting. While many blamed the new technology for the music industry’s demise, there were just as many who also had the foresight to recognize it as the wave of the future-in fact, the only way to go if the industry was to survive at all. Apparently, Michael was one of those far sighted individuals who was already predicting that Apple’s Itunes, as well as the digital downloading markets then being developed by Amazon and others, was the way to go, and that the industry would have to find ways to adapt to change, rather than fighting it.

Survival Would Mean Being Willing To Change With Changing Times
Survival Would Mean Being Willing To Change With Changing Times

One thing that surprised me somewhat after I discovered Michael’s 2003 comments is just how far reaching his statement became (especially impressive considering this was the year of Bashir and the Arvizo allegations). It seemed from that point forward that almost any media article on The Authors, Consumer and Computer Owners Protection and Security Act anti-piracy bill was doomed to include at least a truncated version of Michael Jackson’s vehement disapproval.

http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/entertainment/3085987.stm

Ouch. That must have hurt John Conyers and Howard Berman aplenty. Here they are, presumably fighting the good fight for artists, and here is the King of Pop himself giving their bill the proverbial finger. Michael’s statement was loud and clear, and one that apparently shook the core of the bill’s support. “Don’t send my fans to jail for downloading my music.” It must have been especially a little unsettling for Conyers, who likewise has fought for the protection of legendary artists:

http://www.usatoday.com/story/opinion/2013/12/01/john-conyers-music-copyright-column/3797485/

However, I think that Michael was taking a much more far sighted view of the music piracy issue. Music artists cannot exist in a vacuum. It takes both the artist who creates the music, and the fan who listens to and appreciates that music, to create the partnership-or, to be more poetic, it takes both artist and fan to create the dance.  It’s important to note that Michael never claimed he was in favor of illegal downloading (well, of course he would never have admitted as much publicly, anyway). But, obviously, he recognized that bills intended for the sole purpose of taking punitive measures against fans were not the answer. Certainly they were not the answer to what had become the music industry’s biggest conundrum in the early 2000’s. The technology was there. To think that music fans would not find ways to take advantage of it was absurd. Clearly, the music industry was going to have to change the way things were done. The digital age had arrived. Uploading and downloading-legally or illegally-was here to stay. Michael Jackson may have been one of the first major artists to recognize-or at least to speak out and say publicly-that the old way of doing things had to change. I’m sure his endorsement of Itunes, which had only recently launched, was nothing less than a juggernaut shot in the arm to the fledgling company. (For the record, Michael was a staunch supporter of Apple and Apple products).

Coming Into A New Era
Coming Into A New Era

His views are interesting when you consider the sheer wealth of bootleg Michael Jackson music, videos, and concert footage that was available while he lived, and that proliferated even more just after his death. While Youtube videos featuring Prince songs were routinely yanked as fast as they were uploaded, it was never a problem to instantly find most any Michael Jackson song freely available on the internet. This was true for many years prior to 2009. And indeed, the sheer and staggering amount of bootleg material available could only lead to one foregone conclusion-that Michael had never gone much out of his way to stop it. Perhaps there could be a number of explanations. Perhaps, in the wake of the trial, with all of the mounting lawsuits and all of the other crap he was having to deal with, he simply didn’t have the time, energy, or inclination to go all over the internet policing his own work. Perhaps, knowing how he felt about Sony and the rich record companies in his last years, he really could have cared less. Perhaps, as at least some people I know have theorized, he may well have been the very person who was responsible for “leaking” much of it.  But let’s also keep in mind that this was the man who had donated millions’ worth of royalties to various charities; the same man who had donated all of the proceeds of his record-breaking Dangerous tour to charity.

In Michael’s case,  the vast proliferation of free music and bootleg material available seemed to point to something much more than just his being too overwhelmed to care or to be bothered-or, for that matter, about making any statement to the record industry. Rather, it seemed to fall more in line with his general philanthropic principles. Art is meant to be shared. And in Michael’s case, he believed his music was a gift from God. It begs the question: How can one effectively “own” and “sell” a gift that has been merely channeled from God?

But before going too far astray with that idea, let’s have a reality check. Michael wasn’t stupid, of course. He worked hard at what he did, and he expected to be compensated for it, just as we all would. Let’s not lightly cast aside the fact that this was a man who, in 1991, successfully negotiated the most lucrative recording contract in history. Michael certainly didn’t achieve his mass wealth by giving himself away.

http://www.nytimes.com/1991/03/21/movies/michael-jackson-gets-thriller-of-deal-to-stay-with-sony.html

But deep down inside of him, he must have never completely lost touch with what it felt like to be a poor kid who maybe just wants an upbeat tune to listen to, perhaps to escape the hell that is his life, if only for five minutes. The idea of sending a kid to jail just for downloading “Beat It” is what shook Michael to the core, and spurred him to speak out. If you want to know my honest opinion, I would say hell, yes, Michael knew exactly what was out there in the pirate cyberspace world. And frankly, what he said to the world was, yes, I know it’s out there. And I don’t give a good damn if it is. Enjoy.

Ironically, it seems it has only been since his death that the iron grip has tightened considerably. I have noticed that there aren’t nearly as many Youtube clips of his songs, and the ones that are posted tend to get yanked with fair frequency. Also, the amount of available bootleg material has also accordingly diminished since 2009. And, given the views that Michael expressed in 2003, we can only imagine what he might have made of stories like these:

http://www.wired.com/gamelife/2010/12/michael-jackson-vuvuzela/

http://www.bbc.co.uk/newsbeat/20983940

If Michael, speaking out in 2003 against anti-piracy laws, could have foreseen that two fans in 2012 could successfully hack his entire Sony catalog, he might have at least had a good chuckle. (Somehow I doubt he would have been either shocked, or horrified). But how’s this for compensation?

http://music-mix.ew.com/2009/06/26/michael-jackson-albums-dominate-on-itunes-and-amazon/

Today, Michael Jackson albums consistently rank among the top selling Itunes and Amazon items, with the Number Ones compilation alone having recently passed the 5 million mark. That’s not even counting the continued sales of classics like Thriller, Bad, Off The Wall, and Dangerous. Digital downloads count for over 50% of all music currently sold.

http://www.billboard.com/biz/articles/5900976/chart-moves-michael-jacksons-number-ones-hits-5-million-in-sales-onerepublic

When Michael spoke out and took his stand against music anti-piracy laws over a decade ago, the digital downloading age was still in its infancy. Everyone suspected it would change the future of the industry, but there was no way to know for sure how it would go. Digital downloading, for sure, was either going to destroy the industry, or completely revolutionize it.  In the wake of that revolution, Michael’s words spoken a decade ago bear repeating:

“Here in America we create new opportunities out of adversity, not punitive laws.” We should look to new technologies, like Apple’s new Itunes Music Store, for solutions. This way, innovation continues to be the hallmark of America.”-Michael Jackson.

One of the greatest joys of being a Michael Jackson fan is the continuous discovery of new and unexpected things to admire about him. I had known for years that he was an unsung civil rights activist who had struck a nerve with his eloquent  speeches against racism and the treatment of artists in the industry.

But I hadn’t known until the discovery of this 2003 press statement that he was just as fiercely outspoken and protective when it came to the rights of music fans. 

For that, we should at least owe him a tip of the hat.

hat

21 thoughts on “Michael The Music Activist Took A Stand In '03-And Just May Have Helped Usher In The Future of Music”

  1. It seems to me that if you’re really a fan of an artist’s work, you’ll pay for it instead of stealing it. But Michael was correct – the music industry response to file ‘sharing’ was flat-footed and unrealistic. However their practice of going after internet thieves hard has had a positive effect. Hitting kids and their parents with bills for thousands of dollars has chilled the enthusiasm for pirated music.

  2. Michaels objection to punitive laws against piracy and pro free share, does not mean that he thought his music should be for grabs and illegal sales. He often expressed how much work he put into his music that the public is not aware of. He knew from an early age on that it was not only about the show, but also about the business. Leaking music is not an altruistic move but a teaser, a powerful marketing tool to generate interest.And Michael was a genius at that.
    I read somewhere that he was not amused with the leak of his Akon duet HMH, so much so that he didnt want to release it anymore. So free sharing in his opinion also had its limits.

    Had the free downloading of intellectual property-songs, film, music, books- not gotten so out of hand, musicians, writers ,designers, filmmakers and songwriters would profit more from their work like other professions. Then we would not have this trend that performing artists including Michael who had not toured for decades have to go on stage again to make a living. Even Cliff Richard, the Osmonds and the Jacksons who sold 100 million records are touring again, out of necessity and not only because of bad financial management.
    Had their music been protected more than it is now, at an older age they could have concentrated on creating new music, which hardly happens anymore because the investment is not paying off .
    Considering what Michael went through with AEG, forced into doing 50 shows while he had other ambitions , knowing that without the theft of his property he could have lived off his album sales, catalog and royalties, he might very well have changed his mind now about piracy.
    Btw, the fan who hacked the sony files didn’t do it for the sake of hacking or commercial reasons but to find out about the origins of the cascio tracks. Thats why he got off with a lenient conviction.

    1. Michael’s attitude towards pirated music, however, was much more laisser-faire than many artists. It is not merely an issue of promotional teasers. There were TONS of stuff floating around out there for years-entire concerts, tracks that had never been officially released, songs (whether officially realeased or not) freely available. Michael was very much aware of it, but never took a pro-active stance against it in the same way that many artists of his caliber have done. I believe that his dissatisfaction with the Akon track probably had more to do with the fact that he wasn’t satisfied with the product.

      But it may also have been difficult to foresee at the time (late 90’s/early 2000’s) just how big of an impact pirated music would have down the line. I’m sure every kid who ever downloaded a song illegally was thinking, “I’m just one person; what can it hurt?” But when you multiply that one times many thousand, then millions, it certainly has an impact. I’m not sure how Michael came to view the issue of piracy later on. We only have his words spoken in 2003, at a time when he wasn’t being forced into performing 50 shows just to make ends meet. I really believe Michael’s official position was most likely that, yes, stealing music is wrong BUT his real issue was the severely punitive measures that this particular bill was calling for. This is why he went on to stress in his statement that the burden of change was going to have to be on the industry, rather than forcing music fans to comply to an outdated way of doing things. That he didn’t seem to aggressively fight the pirating of his own music and performances, as I said, could have been due to many factors. However, I do believe he could have been more aggressive on the issue had he been so inclined, which tells me overall that it simply wasn’t a huge priority to him. But we have to keep in mind the man’s own words on the issue (anything more, of course, is just speculation). And what he said was that illegal downloading is wrong, but the answer can’t be sending kids to prison. Severe punitive measures weren’t going to solve the problem, as long as the technology was available. The trick would be in learning to use the technology to advantage, and re-structuring the industry.

      There was a good point made in the article on John Conyers, which is that many classic artists do not receive royalties for songs recorded before 1972, so that when these songs are played on satellite radio, etc they receive no royalties. It is a combination of all of these factors (which I suppose is just another form of piracy) that have resulted in many older artists having to work at an age when they should be able to enjoy retirement.

      BTW I tend to believe that James McCormick and James Marks simply used the controversy over the Cascio tracks as an excuse once they were caught. I’ve never bought that story.

  3. Because of the concerted effort to diminish Michael and his views on all sorts of subjects over the years, it tends to get forgotten that he had more experience and knowledge of the world in general..whatever the subject.. than most.( Been there , done that !!)

    He always thought “outside the box” , or “thought laterally”. Whatever you like to call it , he had a certain wisdom lacking in many so-called experts. It’s a cliche .. but he was ahead of his time in so many areas, and recognised that even serious problems could be solved without aggression, by using sensible and methodical reasoning. Unfortunately the carefully created caricature often meant that he was not taken seriously.. or even worse actually vilified.

    1. Very true. Michael made some of his most eloquent speeches during this time (early 2000’s) and spoke out frequently on several controversial topics, but it seemed all people were paying attention to were the scandals, the tabloid headlines, and the late night comedian jokes. The only thing I really remember hearing about in the news (at the time) was when he was speaking out against Sony, but even there, the media was portraying him merely as a raving madman rather than as an artist taking a serious pro-active stance on an issue that mattered to him.

    1. I’m not impressed with the ad, frankly. They’ve messed with the arrangement of the song, and furthermore, it’s tacky as heck to use it to promote a Sony product when this is a track that deserves to be showcased on a “real” MJ album…you know, the one that we’ve been waiting for since 2009 and the one we know they are quite capable of putting out, what with the quality of VERY GOOD MJ tracks that we know exist-this being one of them.

      There is also, of course, the whole ethical question of using Michael’s music to endorse products. Michael himself wasn’t especially adverse to this practice, as we know, but it seems tacky now in light of the fact that he has no say in the matter. I didn’t have an issue with the recent Pepsi ads as much because Michael had worked with the company before, but this feels different to me (and, yes, I’m also aware that Michael licensed Beatles songs for commercial use, but at that time, three of them were still alive and Michael was keeping in close touch with Yoko Ono regarding these deals). I just wish that Sony and the estate would put half as much effort into putting out a great quality album of new Michael Jackson material-and promoting it properly, with at least half the pomp and circumstance they’re giving this commercial.

      1. Oh Raven I sooo agree. while it is good to hear Michael’s music being used for ads., and therefore keeping it current – we have a Vodacom ad here in South Africa using ABC – I do so wish that we could have a new postumous album, which is long overdue. As you say, there must be tons of music available to make another one and it is indeed high time.

    2. I think they are hitting 2 birds with one stone. Both the commercial and the upcoming album are follow up projects of the sony deal, which is a smart business move.
      And who pays decides. I guess Sony demanded first right to the song for their advertisement and in an arrangement that fits the product . And so business overrules art and the song and album will be forever linked to the sony Phone.
      Not to be cynical, but the executors can now prove to the IRS that Michaels image was really worth less than $ 3000 at the time of his death and only because of their excellent managerial skills has improved so much that it now generates endorsements.
      Anyway, I liked the one that first leaked better than this one and I will stick with it. And that goes for all the song that I already know, I am not really looking for a polished version of the same songs.
      Some will cringe but I honestly like this more than the posthumous studio enhanced music.

      1. Yes, part of the intent may be to use the commercial as a kind of promotion for the album. I guess from my standpoint, though, I would rather they just focus on putting out the best quality posthumous album possible. That is what the world has been waiting on since 2009. The “Michael” album was okay, but flawed in many regards and marred by all of the controversy. It looked and sounded like the rush job that it was, in order to cash in on the 2010 holiday season. I sometimes get the feeling that, between focusing on endorsements, Cirque du Soleil shows, video games, etc, etc it seems the actual music-the most important part of Michael’s legacy-is taking a back seat.

        1. I sometimes get the feeling that, between focusing on endorsements, Cirque du Soleil shows, video games, etc, etc it seems the actual music-the most important part of Michael’s legacy-is taking a back seat-‘

          These are things that Michael already had in place before he died, its ‘easy’ money, cirque du soleil is an established name, the endorsements are more about technology or to an extend a continuation of what Michael did before(pepsi).
          That is less challenging than to develop a high investment product from existing, provably authentic material that represents Michaels artistic vision, of which all the billion something fans have their own opinion, that can and will be compared to Michaels own productions and that must also be of interest to other (new generation)consumers.
          Estate managers priority is and will allways be business , to make money for the Trusts.
          Thats why they should have an independent advisory board that oversees and monitors the artistic vision and integrity of Michaels work. That would have prevented the Michael debacle and they would have faced less criticism and distrust, which is a diffficult position to operate. Even Michael once had his own advisory board.

  4. “There is also, of course, the whole ethical question of using Michael’s music to endorse products.”

    The entire commercial is a celebration of unethical behavior. That’s what struck me, more than the Estate’s breathless announcement of Sony’s use of a snippet of MJ’s music. The ‘choreographer’ uses Sony’s latest gadget to steal another artist’s creation. Morally, there isn’t a dime’s worth of difference between this and using file sharing to steal music.

    Moreover the racism on display in this commercial is absolutely breath-taking: the somewhat ethnic-looking white choreographer copies the work of the black dancer and takes it back to his ballet company, which apart from one Asian girl, is all white. It never seems to occur to anyone that the black guy is dancing to earn money, that he isn’t doing it because he’s a “slave to the rhythm” and just can’t help himself. No, like so many black creators, it’s assumed that his work is freely available to be ripped off by whites. Do the folks at Sony really imagine that African Americans won’t be offended by this, or do they just not care?

    1. Those are good points. These kinds of details will probably go right over the heads of many. The images “look” cool and most viewers, especially if they are only casually watching the commercial between a favorite TV show, won’t read into it that deeply. I wonder if maybe that message wasn’t somehow part of the intent-for example, perhaps an attempt to make some kind of statement on that very issue? I don’t know if the executors behind this commercial were really looking into it that deeply. But since the commercial has a kind of celebratory feel about it, it gives the impression of endorsing that behavior (especially since there are no repercussions or comeuppance for the thievery, other than having a successful production). I may need to watch it again. The first time, I was just getting my first, superficial impressions of it.

      1. Ah, but according to the tagline of the commercial, “Details make the difference”. Indeed they do. It’s a safe bet that either there were no African Americans working on this campaign, or there were one or two who voiced concerns about the concept and the casting, but their concerns were ignored. For black people in mostly white working environments, it takes a lot of courage to point out what seems obvious. It gets you labeled as a “troublemaker”, a “malcontent”, even a “racist”, because you are perceived as searching for racial issues when there are none. You will suffer repercussions. This has happened to me a number of times.

        There are other details embedded in this spot – besides shooting high def video, you can listen to music with your new Xperia, even in the bath tub, because it’s waterproof. In fact throughout, the white guy is shown utilizing advanced technology, with complicated schematics of his choreography, and lighting and costuming. The message is clear: you need this new creation if you want to be on the cutting edge with the cool (white, male) kids. Meanwhile the black guy is so clueless, he doesn’t even have a hat out to collect a few dollars from passersby who might appreciate his work and want to pay him for it. Raven, I hope you have time to ask your students their impressions of this commercial.

  5. Well, they say that we are never so much *in* ideology than when we are unaware of it. Media, including TV, internet, film, etc. are very powerful vehicles for such messages; and this is *especially* so when these details slip past viewers unawares.

    It’s isn’t only black spectators who might be “offended” by this commercial, though; it’s just that what might be called “media literacy” is needed for this kind of reading, across the board. The differences between amateur (read: black) and professional (read: white) is clear in this commercial—-it also confers upon the black dancer a kind of “authenticity” that the white choreographer lacks. All of these embedded narratives, though, have their own historically specific problems.

    To speak to another issue, I agree that it was really tacky to use the music in this way, Raven. And I’m concerned about something else: the manner of the Estate’s address to us, the “fan” public. Do they really imagine that we would *care* about this Sony product? What, are we supposed to share their amped-up “excitement” about this product, when what we really want is some new music?

    It goes to a much larger issue, I think—the increasing assumption that a have no role to play in the public sphere except that of a *consumer*—and a consumer, moreover, who must genuinely feel that their interests neatly coincide with those of a Sony executive…. who is, of course, *excited* at the prospect of pocketing several millions.

    I went to Cirque’s “Michael Jackson: ONE” show a couple of weeks ago in Las Vegas. I was a happy theatergoer, along with everyone else, it seemed. A gift shop had been placed, not simply nearby, but opening right ON to the theater’s vestibule, so that every night, the theater doors would open and people would inevitably be channeled into the gift shop, where they’d be tempted to unload $75 for a T-shirt, or $20 for a Michael Jackson keychain.

    The relationship between art and commerce (which of course has ALWAYS been braided together in popular entertainment) has now reached such a level that I one might wonder whether it’s possible any longer to distinguish between the way the music elicits one’s own subjective emotions, and the ways one takes pride—-not in having acquired an exclusive or well-developed palate—but, on the contrary, by being one among a crowd of *billions*.

  6. Re the ad, I read somewhere that it was released in Spain–don’t know if that’s true, but the ‘choreographer” actor/dancer looks Spanish/Hispanic to me, and the whole thing actually has the sophistication I associate with Spain (having lived there for 2 years) so this is what I am reading–again I could be dead wrong–just my opinion at the moment which can change w. more info). The ‘street dancer’ is probably a professional dancer as is the ‘choreographer.’

    As we know, MJ’s dancing was a product of polishing/reworking/incorporating street dances, and he gave credit to that source but am not aware that he gave the street dancers he saw (or that other choreographers he worked with saw) more than that.

    I hope a new MJ album is on the way but I am not surprised there has been a long delay after accusations that Sony knowingly hired someone to sound like MJ and then palmed it off as him. IMO if the Estate or SONY wants to please all MJ fans who post on blogs and forums as their goal, that will never happen. They have to go for as many fans as possible and still aim to include non fans. They are trying to get out of debt, handle the many legal issues, make money for the beneficiaries, so they have to pull $$ in–it’s mandatory.

    1. The estate issued a press release to MJ’s American fans directing them to the commercial, and the only words heard are spoken in English. Obviously this very expensive commercial is aimed at the enormous North American audience.

      Of course the “street dancer” is a professional, but he’s portraying an artist who dances in the subway for a living. They could have shown the white choreographer bringing him into the studio to work with the ballet dancers. Instead they show him ‘stealing’ the street dancer’s choreography, with no apparent compensation. None of this has anything to do with Michael Jackson, who worked with well paid choreographers his whole career, none of whom were as creative as he himself.

      1. They told the fans about the ad but as far as I know it is not shown in USA. The dialogue is minimal. Again, I could be wrong about the Spanish dancers but the guy has a strong accent–he is a not a native English speaker. Just saying.

        Bringing him into the studio changes the plot of creating a dance–it adds an element to work through in a short time–the ad is not even 1.5 minutes long (the song clip/film part). Did MJ bring the street dancers into the studio? Just asking. Pretty sure he did not. He went and observed them or worked with people who were in contact with them.

        The fact that MJ is public person–well, a street dancer is dancing in public–they are showing their dance to everyone/anyone on the street, so how can they object if someone sees what they do and is inspired by it. Did the street dancer do what the ballet dancers did?–I did not see that. The influence was in the flow/fluidity vibe–that’s what I got out of the connection, which was actually pretty loose in terms of the actual dance presented.

        If the street dancer went to court–to take this as far as we can–would the judge rule that his moves were reproduced in the ballet ?

  7. Legacy and Dead Celebrities – It’s Not All About the Money (Guest Blog, for The Wrap)
    By Dan Scott on December 30, 2013

    “Forbes’ report on the top earning dead celebrities for 2013 is topped by Michael Jackson, who earned an estimated $160 million in 2013 (enough to make Jackson the highest earning celebrity dead or alive). These numbers are impressive, but for a dead celebrity, continuing to earn money is only half the battle when it comes to managing their estate. The other half, which I would argue is equally if not more important, is managing the celebrity’s legacy.

    “A celebrity’s legacy is everything that celebrity was during their lifetime in the public’s eye. In the case of an artist, their legacy consists not only of their body of work but also the message that artist conveyed to the world, what they stood for and symbolized as a public figure.

    “Artists create out of a need for expression, and to ultimately communicate and deliver a message. Understanding that message, and understanding the artist, are critical to managing an artist’s estate and continuing to bring that message and art to new audiences in a responsible manner that preserves the artist’s integrity and celebrates the artist’s spirit.”

    Michael’s Legacy, Yes—let’s talk about that:

    Frank DiLeo talking to Aphrodtie Jones about “daily life on the Bad Tour”: In every single city the tour played — Michael Jackson visited a hospital, and bought a new piece of equipment for that hospital. There was a child who was dying in a hospital in one of the cities. Michael happened to have been at that particular hospital doing what he always did — for LOVE. The extremely ill child wanted to meet Michael, and Michael went to the child and spent time with him.

    “The child perked up,” DiLeo said. “It was amazing. I really couldn’t take it. I went off — over in a corner, and cried. And Michael came over to me and put his arm around me and said, ‘You have to understand Frank. This is OUR JOB…….not getting up on stage and singing and dancing.”

    “We have an important message to give. We need to put love back into the world.”

    “It’s all for love.” Michael Jackson

  8. “Artists create out of a need for expression, and to ultimately communicate and deliver a message. Understanding that message, and understanding the artist, are critical to managing an artist’s estate and continuing to bring that message and art to new audiences in a responsible manner that preserves the artist’s integrity and celebrates the artist’s spirit.”

    Yes, I think it’s true that most artists do create out of a need for expression. But their “message” can just as easily be commodified, manufactured, bought, and sold, as any logo or slogan on a T-shirt, or any keyring. (“Think different”–Apple Computers., etc.) I’m afraid Dan Scott’s sentiments remain mired in the same rhetoric of PR that the Estate uses to “hawk its wares”—which we (rightly!) await as a dog salivates in anticipation of its upcoming meal.

    Michael’s philanthropic activities may, we hope, inspire others to do the same. It would depend on the specific *actions* people are motivated to take, and the specific deeds they carry out: beyond buying the merchandise and speaking in breathlessly sentimental terms about this aspect of Michael’s “legacy.” The “legacy” Dan Scott is talking about, I’m afraid, remains part of the commodity system, tethered to the needs of the capitalism from which it emerged.

    This doesn’t mean that some good can’t come out of the process, of course. But let’s be honest about the tie-ins between the humanitarian rhetoric and the merchandising (and numerous networks of ways one is used to sell the other). It may be unavoidable, but we have to live with these contradictions and each, on our own terms, do the best we can to “make the world a better place.”

  9. Raven you touched on a topic that is very hot right now.
    I cannot make sense of Michaels unreleased music flooding the internet as if its deliberately leaked. From a strictly music pov it is heaven and I listen to them all the time, and maybe that should be my only concern. But for fairness to the artist and (his heirs)profiting from his work, I think it is wrong.
    There also seem to be no attempt to take it down as with the Casio songs that are on a released album, and there are no statements from the executors re the leak, as with the sttr Bieber duet. So it seems they have no problem with it. I wonder who benefits from it and why they expect people to buy music that is given away for free. By now they should know their target group who still buys music are young music/MJ fans or older çonsumers’ from Michaels generation, not necessarily fans, who don’t need tricks and hypes to buy good music. Its not like with living artists where the new album is the start of the anticipation and fans can look forward to a concert tour. With Michael the music is the end. Whoever invented this should think again.

    Talking about bootlegs, here is an interesting Prince interview from last week. At 14.50 he says
    “We live in a singles driven market but I come from old school, making albums and that’s what I will always do.”
    Q: you seem to have a love hate battle with technology, I know you haven’t always loved the internet . How do you see progress right now with that can you use it to your advantage
    A: It’s a double edged sword. A lot of artists are not getting paid full scale for their art and the internet because of downloads and things like that is like a black hole. It’s hard to audit, it’s hard to get accounted . It’s not that it’s just about the money but it’s about justice and fairness. People say that they love you and they respect you at the same time take 80% of your earnings, then expect you to fix your own communities. That’s the short end of the story, we are at the wrong end of it now. Eventually with courageous people saying something we could get some balance’

    I think Princes’ new openness, surprise appearances, interviews and selling albums with concert tickets is also a necessity to compensate failing album sales. He and Michael are the same generation and I wonder what strategy Michael had against bootlegging. He knew that he could not rely on album sales forever and that the rights of the catalogs he owns will eventually expire. I wonder how serious his ambition was to enter the filmindustry, where bootlegging is the same as in music and the production cost and losses because are much higher.
    I could not see him only doing the same show 50 times over as if nothing had changed since 1999.

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