We Could Be Hearing More Michael Jackson and Beatles Songs on Talent Shows Soon…Here’s Why!
We recently had The Four’s Ali Caldwell in our studio and she mentioned a recent deal with Sony/ATV Music Publishing that is a game-changer for talent shows. Through this deal, Sony/ATV acquired rights to songs by Michael Jackson and The Beatles from MJ’s estate. While these songs were rarely sung on talent shows before, we may begin to see them more often. For instance, James Graham just performed “Human Nature” on The Four last week. So what did the deal entail exactly? And when did it happen?
The Beatles Catalog
Let’s start with some of the backstory here. First, a brief history of The Beatles catalog. It’s a “long and winding road” to track ownership of The Beatles songs. The Beatles’ debut album in 1963 was first published under a company called Northern Songs, majority-owned by Dick James. In 1969, James sold his stake in Northern Songs to ATV Music. Despite John Lennon and Paul McCartney’s attempts to offer a counter bid, ATV gained control of the catalog. Later that year, Lennon and McCartney sold their remaining shares to ATV. This left them without a stake in the publishing of their own songs.
In 1985, ATV Music was purchased by Michael Jackson after being put up for sale. He became the owner of the approximately 250 Lennon-McCartney songs at that point. Amid financial issues in 1995, Jackson sold half of ATV to Sony, forming Sony/ATV Music Publishing. Jackson and Sony both owned 50% of the company. In 2006, Sony gained operational control of Sony/ATV. Following Jackson’s sudden death in 2009, his share of the catalog came under the control of his estate. Sony officially agreed to buy out the Jackson estate’s full 50% of Sony/ATV in 2016. This made Sony the sole owner of the Lennon-McCartney catalog.
As for the Michael Jackson catalog, that story is a little shorter. Michael Jackson founded Mijac Music as his personal publishing company in 1980. He maintained control of that until his death in 2009. His estate still retains ownership of the catalog. Since 2012, Sony/ATV has administered Mijac Music. In July of 2017, Sony/ATV Music Publishing and Jackson’s estate announced a long-term extension of Sony/ATV’s worldwide administration of the Mijac Music catalog. The catalog also includes the Sly and the Family catalog and songs made famous by Ray Charles, Elvis Presley, and Aretha Franklin.
So What Does It Mean?
Now that we’re up to speed on the history of these songs’ ownership, let’s break it down. Basically what this means is Sony is now in charge of giving permission for these songs to be performed on talent shows, in movies, etc. Whereas before these songs were rarely cleared because the ownership was private, now they will likely be more liberal in their access. This is important when considering song choice on these shows! For companies like Sony/ATV, the more exposure these songs get, the better it is for profits. It’s a win-win!
Thinking back to American Idol in its prime, I specifically remember the two “Beatles Week”s during Season 7. Because the songs were never cleared, it was a huge deal at the time. It also brought some of the most memorable performances of the season, from Carly Smithson’s Come Together to David Cook’s Eleanor Rigby to Brooke White’s Let It Be. I, for one, am excited to hear more MJ and The Beatles on these shows. Two of the most iconic legends in music history deserve to get some love on these shows. And I especially look forward to some diversity now that contestants will have more song options!