Been looking forward to the new posthumous album to be released by SONY on December 14th. Like many, I'm searching for anything Michael-related. Still pretty much in denial and holding on to whatever is there, refusing to let go. This is too much harder than I thought.
The amazing MJ fan community is working so hard on different fronts. There is the ongoing "Involuntary Manslaughter" case, if you can remember (Yeah, preliminary hearing is supposed to take place in January!).. There is all the tabloid trash, unashamed to tarnish a man who has passed away. There is a great artistic and humanitarian legacy to protect and revive. There is the determination to let everybody know the real Michael Jackson, making facts available for those who were denied access to them by the greedy media. And there is of course the SONY issue.
Being one of the middle generation of fans, it just hit me that the younger generations have not witnessed many of the events that are being mentioned by the older generations in their postings. You can see the confusion and the division among them, and it is so difficult to address each inquiry individually. Thus, I thought.. "Why not compile what I have concerning each file and put it all here for those who'd happen to pass by?"
I'm starting with the Sony file, feeling my heart aching already. Goodness!.. Here we go..
Let's start from the very beginning.. Back when Sony bought Epic Records, which used to be a CBS company. Sony bought CBS Records in 1987 and the company was renamed Sony Music in 1991, around the release time of Dangerous. Epic's booming success of course was Michael's Thriller album, the biggest selling album of all time. Michael then released Bad in 1987 under CBS. Two years earlier, he had won a great business deal when he bought the ATV music catalog, which included copyrights for The Beatles and many other artists. (We'll get back to this point later).
Now, by the time the label's name changed to Sony, it was time to release Dangerous. (The label changed in February 1991, Michael renewed his contract with Sony in March, and the album was released in November of the same year). Michael signed a 15 year, 6 album deal for $65 million, which was a crazy figure at the time. But what did Sony gain in return? Billions!
Michael was a great businessman as well as being a great artist. All the nonsense being said about his debts and him blowing off money are ignorant false statements. He saw ahead and that's why he secured himself by buying shares in other companies, making sure not to commit the mistakes of other artists, who did not own their copyrights. Hence, he was careful enough to own the copyrights for all his works under his own label., his music catalog which he named MiJac (short for Michael Jackson, announcing that it is 100% owned by him). All of those assets he put into an estate, which actually consists of many companies, but we simply refer to it as the Michael Jackson estate.
In 1995, Michael agreed to sell half of his ATV catalog to Sony, and form a merger, whereby they split the profits of the whole Sony/ATV catalog (as it has been named since then); which basically means that every morning Michael would get half of what Sony gets for copyrights. There are lots of legal details involved. But what concerns us here, is that Michael was always thinking about protecting his artistic legacy, and that is very unusual among artists who usually focus on technical matters, leaving the financial and legal aspects to their production companies.
Michael was Sony's biggest name. And it annoyed them so much to see him grow so independent, which means that their investments were at risk. Thus, a few years before the end of Michael's contract with Sony, there started a plan to tie him down and make him bound to Sony.. OR ELSE, break him and bring down his financial worth in the market.
The scheming started secretly of course, but it wasn't long before it developed into an open war. Michael was determined to become a free agent after leaving Sony, totally refusing to renew his contract with them or sign to any other company.
Sony Music's manager at the time, Tommy Mottola, came up with a plan to.. let's say, tame Michael. The biggest fish in Michael's pond was the ATV catalog, which generated millions to his estate every year. When Michael bought it back in 1984 for $47.5 million, everybody called him crazy. At the time the conflict started, Michael's share was worth more than $1.2 billion, and now some people estimate it to be worth over $2.5 billion.
It was usual for Michael to take loans from his production company while working on a new album and then pay them back off the revenues (Michael also owned a share in the revenues and his was the highest among artists, 16%). Before the release of Invincible, Michael had borrowed almost $300 million from Sony on loan ($290 million to be exact). When the album was finally released on Halloween 2001, Sony declined to promote it. This same year, Michael has been denying rumors that he was planning to sell the Beatles' song catalog! All of a sudden he found rumors spreading out that he intends to sell them in order to cover legal bill expenses, which was not true. He thus announced back then: "I want to clarify a silly rumour - The Beatles catalog is not for sale, has not been for sale and will never be for sale."
Since then Sony's aim was to make sure that Michael will be unable to pay the loan. They disagreed to finance any projects related to Invincible as well as Michael's charity event following 9/11 the all-star track "What More Can I Give?" which he had to produce on his own, but could not release or distribute because of his contract with Sony. They gave him a clear warning that in case he released it privately, they will go to court. They cut out the budgets for the Invincible videos, refusing to film "Unbreakable" as Michael's proposed head track, and for which he had planned a huge video project, more ambitious than that of "Scream". It became so ridiculous as they refused time after time to promote the album or support it in any way, until Michael was too disgusted that he did not appear in the video of the second single from the album, "Cry," which did not have a proper music video.
Michael and fans geared up for war against Sony in 2002, when Michael spoke up openly against Sony and exposed all of their schemes. You can view videos of those speeches and the New York fan protest against Sony here:
*Please download these videos because Sony is quickly removing them from YouTube. I used to have the link to a better video for the NY demo, but it is no longer there.
Out of the blues (not really), there came the 2nd molestation case! I don't wanna get into many details here. You can read Aphrodite Jones' book, Conspiracy, for more on this. And all the fans knew what and who was behind it. Thank God, the truth found its way in court, but Michael never recovered from this blow. It breaks my heart to remember this, so sorry I won't go deep into this issue and all related info. Or I'll just give you one example to show how far this conspiracy had gone. For it happened by mere chance that while investigating those who work around Michael, the lawyers on the case found out that Michael's estate manager, John Branca, shared a secret bank account with Tommy Mottola oversees (in the Caribbean) and that Sony was transferring money into that account!
Some may think that Sony, being a big name in the entertainment industry, won't be as foolish as to practice fraud.. Well, let me tell you something about Sony's history in this respect.. Or better, go see the evidence for yourself:
Sony's Phony Critic (Not a Joke)
Sony Spying on Consumers
Moving on to the fresh topic at hand.. the new single released from the posthumous album, Michael. (Urgh!!) First of all, let me tell you that I think the album cover is a mess! Who is this on the main image? These are not Michael's eyes! And what a miserable gloved hand he has! What is this for God's sake? Is this really the best Sony could come up with after this long period they spent on preparing for this album?! Or were they too occupied with editing the tracks they got through the Cascios?
This being said, I don't believe Sony's new trick is "Breaking News" at all. As mentioned previously, you can see it's in line with their usual ways.
Happened to come across this article in the Huffington Post this morning: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/joe-vogel/exclusive-the-inside-stor_b_781364.html
Its author concludes:
OK.. now this (if Sony truly did those investigations) may declare the Cascios are not guilty, but I fail to see how they might prove that Sony's released track is authentic! The experts listened to the records handed over by the Cascios. We don't know whether or not they had a chance to listen to Sony's edited tracks! Nothing mentioned above can verify that.
Sony Music conducted its own investigation by hiring a second well-respected forensic musicologist who also compared the raw vocals from the Cascio tracks against known vocals of Jackson's and found that it was Jackson's voice on both sets of the compared vocals.
The Cascio tracks were also played for two of the most significant people in the music industry who played crucial roles in Jackson's career. Both of these individuals believe that the vocals are those of Michael Jackson.
It was also specifically verified that the vocals did not belong to well-known Jackson impersonator, Jason Malachi.
The results of this exhaustive investigation confirmed Sony's belief that the songs submitted by the Estate all contained authentic Michael Jackson vocals. The decision was therefore made to include three of the Cascio tracks on Michael. Other tracks will likely be included on future albums of unreleased material.
While these are not perfectly realized tracks--as no posthumous material can be--there is certainly much to appreciate. The Cascio tracks represent, after all, some of the last work Jackson ever wrote and recorded. It wasn't ready to be released, but then, Jackson wasn't ready to die.
Besides, the final part up there explaining that those tracks were "not perfectly realized" and admitting that they have gone through some editing process.. leaves us with no answers!
Personally, I can't tell how much of this track is authentic. All I know is that I didn't feel it. What about you?
P.S. The idea for this post and most of its body was written while I was responding to a question from a fan, who is in his early twenties, about Sony.