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Thread: Posthumus careers of other artists - putting Michael's prospects into a context

   
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    Default Posthumus careers of other artists - putting Michael's prospects into a context

    I know some fans are disappointed in the (so far) not so great US sales of Bad 25. (Worldwide sales have been much better.) Therefore I'd like to analyze how other artists have been doing after their death and what it can mean for Michael in the future.

    I browsed the discographies of Elvis, the Beatles and Queen looking for posthumus chart performances (posthumus means post Lennon's and Mercury's deaths in the case of the Beatles and Queen). I know the Beatles are held up as a phenomenal posthumus success story. It is claimed that their "1" album that was released in 2000 sold 30 million copies world wide, making it the best selling album of the 2000s. Other album re-releases, best of compilation by them tend to do well too.

    But it wasn't always the case. When I look at their discography: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Beatles_discography it seems to me that the renaissance of the Beatles (post Lennon's death) only really started mid-90s with the "Live at the BBC" album and the Anthology trilogy. Then there was the very successful "1" in 2000 and "Love" (the Cirque album) was also successful. (Their latest album "Tomorrow Never Knows" (released this year) which is a compilation of the Beatles' most infulential rock songs, though, peaked at Nr 24 in the US.)

    But in the 1980s Beatles releases were less successful. For example, in 1982 they released an album with the Beatles' Nr 1 hits ( http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/20_Grea...atles_album%29 ) and it peaked only at Nr 50 on Billboard, 52 in Canada and 10 in the UK.

    Elvis: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Elvis_P...ms_discography
    His most successful box-set up to date is Today Tomorrow and Forever which peaked at 21 on the Billboard in 2002. When you look at his posthumus compilation albums they did not exactly set the charts afire. Until 2002 when ELV1S was released and went Nr 1 in the US, UK and elsewhere. Then 2nd to None (a sequel to ELV1S) went Nr 3 in the US in 2003. These are his only really notable posthumus chart successes! So the first really big success came 25 years after his death!

    Queen: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Queen_discography
    Made in Heaven was a success in 1995, but it was kind of still riding the post-death hype of Freddie. Though it was released four years after his death, but it was the first posthumus album. But after that you do not really see phenomenal chart success for any Queen release. Their latest Greatest Hits album, Absolute Greatest peaked at Nr 195 in the US in 2009.

    I'm bringing this up to put Michael's posthumus career into a context and also to try to keep our expectations realistic. We will have to get used to it that not everything that will be released from him will be a phenomenal chart success. It's very difficult to market dead artists and to sell the same stuff all over and over again. It seems to me also a certain amount of time needs pass after the death and post death surge for the public to get hungry of and re-discover an artist again and before a phenomenally successful Greatest Hits album can be put out ("1", ELV1S). It certainly won't happen in every 2-3 years. And of course the public needs to be in a mood to be receptive of that music. The public wasn't receptive of a Beatles Nr 1s album in 1982 but was very much so in 2000. Timing is everything.

    With Michael there is another problem, which is that his catalog is relatively small. We are basically talking about 6 and a half albums and there's not many variations you can release them again and again. The Beatles and Elvis have a much larger catalog, so that can be released again and again in many variations.

    Considering all these factors I think we should not feel very much down or worried because of the US sales of Bad 25. It's not like other artists who are not here any more constantly do well on the charts - even if they are as legendary as Elvis, the Beatles or the Queen. It's just the reality of posthumus careers.

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    Default Re: Posthumus careers of other artists - putting Michael's prospects into a context

    Great post. Puts things into perspective for sure.

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    Default Re: Posthumus careers of other artists - putting Michael's prospects into a context

    It's really more about quality releases and Michael's artistry being as widely respected as it deserves to be IMO. Elvis releases in the decade or so following his death were for the most part, fairly poor releases that did little to restore the respect to him as an artist amongst critics or the public. It wasn't until the 90's when a new team took over and released the Grammy nominated box set "The King of Rock 'n' Roll: The Complete 50's Masters" that the perception of Elvis started to change. Writers like Peter Guralnick, who wrote a critically acclaimed biography on Elvis called "Last Train To Memphis" also helped (he also wrote the liner notes to aforementioned box set and a few other Elvis releases).

    Michael could have the same thing with more serious writers like Joe Vogel starting to write without prejudice or sensationalism about him and his music. And hopefully the estate can keep on the same sort of path they have started for Bad25, rather than the other path they were on before it. It's all about quality and respect for Michael as a serious, groundbreaking artist. If Michael is presented the way he really was, everything else will fall into place.
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    Default Re: Posthumus careers of other artists - putting Michael's prospects into a context

    Great post! I'll try to write a more thoughtful reply later, but right now I just wanted to say thank you for this excellent post!

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    Default Re: Posthumus careers of other artists - putting Michael's prospects into a context

    Addition to the OP:

    If we look at John Lennon's and Freddie Mercury's posthumus careers as solo artists:

    Lennon: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/John_Lennon_discography

    Double Fantasy was releases three weeks before Lennon's murder so certainly the tragedy played a big part in the fact that it then went Nr 1.

    Wikipedia:

    Unimpressed with its cosy domesticity, critical reaction to the album was largely scathing—"a self-obsessed disaster" according to one reviewer.[10] However, three weeks after the album's release, Lennon was murdered and many of the poor reviews were withdrawn from publication.[6]

    In the UK album charts, the album had peaked at #14 then slipped to #46,[11] whilst in the US, the album had slowly risen to #11. Upon Lennon's murder, the album jumped to #1 in the US chart, where it stayed for eight weeks[12] and in the UK, it jumped to #2, where it remained for seven weeks before finally spending two weeks at #1.[11]
    His first really posthumus album was Milk and Honey in 1984 that peaked at Nr 11 in the US. And that remains his biggest posthumus success until now. A live album in 1986 peaked at 41. His highest peaking posthumus compilation was Power to the People: The Hits, which peaked at Nr 24 in 2010. Many posthumus best of releases of Lennon peaked at around 60 or lower, many outside of the Top 100.

    Mercury: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Freddie...ry_discography

    Well, the most successful posthumus release was The Freddie Mercury Album just a year after his death. It peaked at Nr 4 in the UK, and Nr 1 in Italy, but it did not chart in the US.

    Again, these people are legends, no matter what. Just to put things into a perspective.

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    Default Re: Posthumus careers of other artists - putting Michael's prospects into a context

    Michael.has done better than them then

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    Default Re: Posthumus careers of other artists - putting Michael's prospects into a context

    Quote Originally Posted by respect77 View Post
    I'm bringing this up to put Michael's posthumus career into a context and also to try to keep our expectations realistic. We will have to get used to it that not everything that will be released from him will be a phenomenal chart success. It's very difficult to market dead artists and to sell the same stuff all over and over again. It seems to me also a certain amount of time needs pass after the death and post death surge for the public to get hungry of and re-discover an artist again and before a phenomenally successful Greatest Hits album can be put out ("1", ELV1S). It certainly won't happen in every 2-3 years. And of course the public needs to be in a mood to be receptive of that music. The public wasn't receptive of a Beatles Nr 1s album in 1982 but was very much so in 2000. Timing is everything.
    This was a fantastic post! BUT Bad 25 is not a typical release, it's not a traditional GH release trying to sell the same stuff over and over again. It's an uppgrade to the original album with a fantastic one of a kind DVD and the second ever MJ Live album (actually first ever Live album, if you exclude The Jacksons!). At this time we are not yet experiencing the "over and over again phase" and with all the material the Estate has got in the vaults I would guess the "over and over again phase" could still be years if not decades away from today.

    Quote Originally Posted by respect77 View Post
    With Michael there is another problem, which is that his catalog is relatively small. We are basically talking about 6 and a half albums and there's not many variations you can release them again and again. The Beatles and Elvis have a much larger catalog, so that can be released again and again in many variations.
    Exactly, his officially catalogue is relatively smal, but his unreleased catalogue is quite large, especially if you consider the video material (Tours, Award shows, special performances, ...). And seeing that he only ever released 6,5 albums in his grown upp period the Estate and Sony should not waste any opportunities to promote such a special release, to expose it as much as possible and to think the whole timing issue through. 25th anniversaries only come once and the Estate probably won't do a Bad 30 because other projects might be happening in 5 years.
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    Default Re: Posthumus careers of other artists - putting Michael's prospects into a context

    Michael has sold over 40 million albums since his passing, and of course Cirque De Soleil did well in the US and will do extremely well in other countries so I know MJ will do well

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    Default Re: Posthumus careers of other artists - putting Michael's prospects into a context

    Quote Originally Posted by Billie Jean 78 View Post
    This was a fantastic post! BUT Bad 25 is not a typical release, it's not a traditional GH release trying to sell the same stuff over and over again. It's an uppgrade to the original album with a fantastic one of a kind DVD and the second ever MJ Live album (actually first ever Live album, if you exclude The Jacksons!). At this time we are not yet experiencing the "over and over again phase" and with all the material the Estate has got in the vaults I would guess the "over and over again phase" could still be years if not decades away from today.



    Exactly, his officially catalogue is relatively smal, but his unreleased catalogue is quite large, especially if you consider the video material (Tours, Award shows, special performances, ...). And seeing that he only ever released 6,5 albums in his grown upp period the Estate and Sony should not waste any opportunities to promote such a special release, to expose it as much as possible and to think the whole timing issue through. 25th anniversaries only come once and the Estate probably won't do a Bad 30 because other projects might be happening in 5 years.
    Well, Bad 25 is not a GH album but a re-release of a certain album. Thus statistically it has even less chance of being a huge chart success, because traditionally its GH albums, not re-releases, those are the biggest sellers of a dead artist's portfolio.

    The Bad Tour DVD really is a first timer, but it's compromised by the quality. I don't mind it but it certainly would sell even more in HD quality and also would be more marketable: eg. cinema release, Blue-ray, videos for TV etc.

    Having said that, the DVD does look to be a success! Even in the US it went to Nr 1! As in many other countries. So maybe people who are not hard-core fans but have great memories of the Bad era typically just buy the DVD, not really the Boxset (which is rather expensive) and not the 2 CD version which is basically the original album with a few demos. Unfortunately DVD sales don't count into the album sales.

    As for the unreleased songs. I really love the demos on Bad 25. Except for DBMA (which I think is average) all are great songs that I will listen to a lot in the future. But demos are not so interesting for the general public.

    Now, if they finish the demos on their own account we are at risk that we will get another "Michael" album and that would be a disaster. Honestly I prefer them untouched than finished by someone else. Especially if the production is so poor as it was on the Michael album. That's my main problem with the Michael album (I'm not going into the Cascio debate) that it was very sloppy work production wise. So I'm wary of another album that would have demos finished by others. Rather give me the demos. But on the other hand I know demos won't interest the general public. So it's a dilemma. Certainly for the Estate too.

    On the other hand, the Beatles' successful Antohology trilogy in the mid-90s was a collection of unreleased material, outtakes, rare concert recordings. So maybe success can be achieved with such material. But I think timing is important and anticipation must be built up. Anthology's lead song "Free as a Bird" ( http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UqHjXF1gUWU ) was the first "new" Beatles song in 25 years. IMO it wasn't a very good song - many of Michael's demos are a LOT stronger than that. But there was such an anticipation built up, and the time came when the public was hungry and receptive of the Beatles again, so it sold well, no matter if it was average.

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    Default Re: Posthumus careers of other artists - putting Michael's prospects into a context

    ^ Take your point about building up anticipation, but the estate's deal with sony for x no of projects is 10 yrs i think.

    Quote Originally Posted by respect77
    I'm bringing this up to put Michael's posthumus career into a context and also to try to keep our expectations realistic.
    Thing is, it's not just the fans' expectations that were 'unrealistic', it was the music industry's. MJ estate scored the biggest music contract in history, for anyone living or dead, with sony a year after mj's death. So mj was clearly expected to be a massive seller posthumously.

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    Default Re: Posthumus careers of other artists - putting Michael's prospects into a context

    Quote Originally Posted by respect77 View Post
    The Bad Tour DVD really is a first timer, but it's compromised by the quality. I don't mind it but it certainly would sell even more in HD quality and also would be more marketable: eg. cinema release, Blue-ray, videos for TV etc.

    Having said that, the DVD does look to be a success! Even in the US it went to Nr 1! As in many other countries. So maybe people who are not hard-core fans but have great memories of the Bad era typically just buy the DVD, not really the Boxset (which is rather expensive) and not the 2 CD version which is basically the original album with a few demos. Unfortunately DVD sales don't count into the album sales.
    Now imagine a Bad 25 release consisting of the original CD and the DVD in a 2 CD package. They could of course still release the Deluxe version as it is, but just imagine the DVD being released together with then original album! We could have had a 25 year old nr. 1 album all over again.

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    Default Re: Posthumus careers of other artists - putting Michael's prospects into a context

    Quote Originally Posted by Bonnie Blue View Post
    ^ Take your point about building up anticipation, but the estate's deal with sony for x no of projects is 10 yrs i think.

    Thing is, it's not just the fans' expectations that were 'unrealistic', it was the music industry's. MJ estate scored the biggest music contract in history, for anyone living or dead, with sony a year after mj's death. So mj was clearly expected to be a massive seller posthumously.
    Well, yes: then their expectations were unrealistic. There is no way ANY artist who has passed would sell many millions and millions of records year after year after year, non-stop - especially so close to the post-death surge. It never happened. It's just not realistic.

    (Of course, it would help Sony to meet their expectations if there would not be distribution problems, for example.)

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    Default Re: Posthumus careers of other artists - putting Michael's prospects into a context

    Whatever they do, no more trying to put together and market something as a "new studio album", or "the album Michael would have put together if he were still here". That's impossible. We saw with 'Michael' how that would work out.
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    Default Re: Posthumus careers of other artists - putting Michael's prospects into a context

    This post really puts things into perspective. It's funny, I've never really thought about how much the posthumous releases of these famous artists sold. I just knew they're considered iconic artists, so I guess I kind of assumed their every release has been successful, but that's clearly not the case. Well, I wouldn't call their posthumous releases unsuccessful either, they did fine for posthumous releases, it's just great to know that they didn't top the charts every time they released something either.

    This is an interesting topic, because I feel like unrealistic expectations is something that Michael had to deal with pretty much his entire life. He certainly seems to have set himself too high expectations that nobody could reach. I get that being a perfectionist is just part of who he was, but it makes me sad that he never seemed entirely happy with anything that he achieved.

    And then there's the media of course. They're so eager to point out that Michael's albums after Thriller didn't sell as many copies. They're far less eager to mention that no album ever has sold as much as Thriller. It's like it's Michael alone who's supposed to always sell more and more and break records and be more successful than everybody else. Nobody can do that, and it's so unfair to demand something of Michael that nobody else can do either. I feel like it had to be an enormous pressure and burden on him when he was still here.

    And, although I hate to say this, sometimes I wonder if fans' expectations are also too high. Maybe Michael's phenomenal success has affected fans' perceptions of how commercially successful his releases should be. I know at first I was disappointed with Bad selling less than 30k in the US, and I think many others were a little disappointed too. It was only when I had thought about it a little more that I realised 27k is a perfectly fine number for an anniversary edition.

    The more I look at Bad25 chart success, the happier I am with it. It has some very nice chart peaks in several countries, and while it may not sell millions, few albums do these days. It looks even more successful when you compare it to the albums you mentioned in this post. It's reassuring to know that not every release by these other very famous, influential artists were phenomenal successes either, and it hasn't made them any less legendary. It's especially good to know that for Elvis and the Beatles their posthumous success didn't happen immediately. MJ's posthumous releases so far have done perfectly fine considering everything, and it's only been three years. Who knows what will happen in 20 years from now? I'm happy with the success of his posthumous releases so far, and I'm optimistic about the future.

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    Default Re: Posthumus careers of other artists - putting Michael's prospects into a context

    Quote Originally Posted by respect77 View Post
    As for the unreleased songs. I really love the demos on Bad 25. Except for DBMA (which I think is average) all are great songs that I will listen to a lot in the future. But demos are not so interesting for the general public.
    Now, if they finish the demos on their own account we are at risk that we will get another "Michael" album and that would be a disaster. Honestly I prefer them untouched than finished by someone else. Especially if the production is so poor as it was on the Michael album. That's my main problem with the Michael album (I'm not going into the Cascio debate) that it was very sloppy work production wise. So I'm wary of another album that would have demos finished by others. Rather give me the demos. But on the other hand I know demos won't interest the general public. So it's a dilemma. Certainly for the Estate too.
    It's definitely a dilemma. Demos are not that interesting for the general public, which is understandable. I listen to other artists too besides just Michael, but honestly, Michael is the only one whose demos I'd love to hear. You have to be a big fan to want to hear everything the artist recorded. For the casual listener it's enough to hear the songs that made it to the album.

    But somebody else finishing Michael's demos and then selling them as Michael Jackson songs is hugely problematic too. The point shouldn't be just to get a radio-friendly tune, it should be about respecting Michael as an artist. Maybe one solution could be to release several versions of the song - the original demo and a version finished by someone else. Then you'd get at least some idea of what's somebody else's work than Michael's. Then of course, if an album has several versions of the same songs that might not be interesting to the general public either.

    I don't want to get into the Cascio debate either, but for me a big problem with the Michael album was that it wasn't cohesive as a whole. It was just a bunch of random songs thrown together. It had some unreleased songs from almost 30 years ago, and then it had some recent tracks that had been finished by other people and there was no way to know what Michael's original vision was. With Bad25 it's much more interesting to listen to the demos because you have some context for them. We know they were written around the same time as other songs for the Bad album, so you get a clearer picture of where Michael was at the time he made this album. And it's interesting to think about what kind of choices Michael made with the album, why he included certain songs and not others etc. I just feel like Bad25 says something very interesting about Michael as an artist, in a way that the Michael album didn't.

    Personally, I love Bad25, and I'd love to have similar releases in the future, where there are some new demos added to an album. I'd especially love to hear what kind of songs Michael recorded for HIStory that weren't included on the album. But then on the other hand, I don't think the Estate should make decisions based just on what the already existing fans want, I think they should be trying to get some new fans as well. So, I don't know. I don't think there's an easy answer to this.

    Quote Originally Posted by respect77 View Post
    On the other hand, the Beatles' successful Antohology trilogy in the mid-90s was a collection of unreleased material, outtakes, rare concert recordings. So maybe success can be achieved with such material. But I think timing is important and anticipation must be built up. Anthology's lead song "Free as a Bird" ( http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UqHjXF1gUWU ) was the first "new" Beatles song in 25 years. IMO it wasn't a very good song - many of Michael's demos are a LOT stronger than that. But there was such an anticipation built up, and the time came when the public was hungry and receptive of the Beatles again, so it sold well, no matter if it was average.
    That's a really interesting point about the public being hungry for a new Beatles song, even if the song wasn't terribly good. I think it's too soon after Michael's death for the public to feel that same kind of hunger for new Michael songs, especially since we've already had so many new songs so soon after his death. I hate to say this, but I hope they don't release too many new tracks too soon. I mean, of course I'd love to hear a lot of new material as soon as possible, but I also want Michael's legacy to last for a long time. It's not good if they "waste" a lot of new material now that the timing doesn't seem to be right.

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