Musical Artists: Worth More Dead Than Alive?

LOS ANGELES, CA (November 24, 2009) With the passing of pop's biggest idols comes an unprecedented outpouring of emotion. Soon after, it becomes apparent that the money lives on. In the cases with music's biggest icons, the revenues generated post-mortem signify lucrative paydays for their estates.

"Often times the estates will become booming enterprises because the artist is no longer in charge," says Los Angeles entertainment attorney Helen Yu. "Elvis is a clear example: he was an amazing artist and performer, but he ran amuck financially during his life and was too generous with others when he should not have been. It wasn't until after he died that Priscilla Presley and her advisors created an estate that would go on to earn millions of dollars." According to the Forbes Annual Top Earning Dead Celebrities, the Presley estate is worth in excess of $55 million dollars.

Michael Jackson has reportedly made $90 million dollars since his death in June 2009, and most of that money is from AEG, the company behind his movie This Is It. Jackson was reportedly in catastrophic debt before his death.

Since Michael Jackson's death, the world can now see the true light of Michael's legacy. Posthumous homages have been done by Helen Yu-represented Michael Jackson protégé Wade Robson and his friend Charles Klapow. Robson, the Emmy-winning choreographer/director who as a young dancer appeared in Jackson's "Black or White," "Jam" and "Heal the World" videos, has since become the creator of the MTV show, The Wade Robson Project, as well as the choreographer for an American Idol tour and artists like Usher and Pink. He recently choreographed Cirque du Soleil/Criss Angel's Believe at the Las Vegas Luxor. Robson honored Jackson as a performer at this year's the 2009 MTV Video Music Awards (VMAs) and on the recent So You Think You Can Dance. Helen says, "I've known Wade Robson and Charles Klapow since they were both little kids. They have both been disciples of Michael all their lives, and it's great to see them honoring him in this way." Yu is also associated with Charles Klapow, an Emmy-Winning choreographer known for his contributions to the High School Musical franchise, and one of the dancers for the Michael Jackson tour featured in the film This Is It, as well as Jennifer Hudson's performance at the Michael Jackson memorial service held at Staples Center in Los Angeles.

Yu observes the economic reality of a famous artist's estate involves "finding commercial avenues for the assets they already have and building on what already exists. Graceland was upside down and they turned it into a museum that is the most popular element of the company. Michael Jackson has the film, and they may also eventually create a museum."

Yu, who once attended a pre-auction viewing of the possessions of the still living King of Pop, notes the unprecedented earning power of the now deceased Jackson. "He was certainly an amazing songwriter, performer and dancer, but he sometimes let the wrong people in. Now that his estate's advisors are John Branca and John McClain, music industry veterans who know how to monetize the business, unfortunately, he will most likely earn more dead than alive."