This page has been created to provide answers to commonly asked questions received by the Estate through the Michael Jackson Online Team. The page will be updated occasionally with additional questions and answers and you can submit questions for consideration through the submission form on this page.
Given how much has been done in the first decade following Michael’s tragic and untimely passing, it should not be a surprise that there is a natural slowing and spreading out of major releases as the Estate focuses more selectively on projects to enhance Michael’s legacy long term. While we appreciate that the fans want more releases, it is important to keep in mind all that has been created and released in this relatively short time. This includes a number of licensing deals such as the limited-edition collaborations with clothing companies like Supreme and Off White, the launch of the Michael Jackson slot machines, as well as all of the larger scale releases including:
2009: The documentary film This Is It, which remains the highest grossing music documentary/concert film in history. Also released was a compilation album with the same title that includes the songs featured in the film and a few bonus tracks including Michael’s unreleased track, “This Is It”. The album has sold in excess of five million copies worldwide making it the largest posthumous release in history.
2010: The Ubisoft game, Michael Jackson: The Experience. While there were many successful versions of the Ubisoft Just Dance videogame, this was the first (and only) time they released a dance video game dedicated entirely to a single artist! It was released on every major platform and went on to become one of the biggest selling video games on the Wii platform.
There were also two releases under the Estate’s agreement with Sony Music – Michael, which was the first release of previously unfinished tracks that were worked on by various producers who had worked with Michael. Notwithstanding the controversy about three of the tracks on that album, it went to #1 around the world and sold more than five million copies. Visions, the complete collection of all of Michael’s short films, was also released.
2011: There have been two completely unique live stage shows created by the Estate in partnership with Cirque du Soleil. The first of these shows, Michael Jackson THE IMMORTAL World Tour, travelled to arenas around the world for nearly 3 years. Along the way it grossed approximately $400 million at the box office making it one of the biggest tours of all time! And it won the Billboard Magazine Creative Content Award.
There was also another release under the partnership with Sony Music – an album, Immortal, featuring remixes of Michael’s recordings created by Kevin Antunes, the musical director for both Cirque du Soleil shows, based on the songs used in the IMMORTAL show.
2012: There was a special Bad album re-release to commemorate the 25th anniversary of the Bad album which included remastered versions of the tracks from the original album on one disc together with a second disc that included rarities as well as 6 previously unreleased demos by Michael from the recording sessions for the Bad album. It is worth noting that none of these demos would have been released as ‘new’ recordings, however they worked in the context of ‘bonus’ material for this anniversary release. Also included in the larger box set was a Live at Wembley CD – the first ever Michael Jackson live CD from any of Michael’s solo tours to be released.
Also, as part of the Bad 25th anniversary celebration, the Wembley concert from the Bad Tour was released on DVD. Michael’s performance at this concert is certainly the best live concert performance by any artist ever. As explained at the time, had we been able to locate any original source films/tapes for this performance we would have used those to create a fully edited concert. Unfortunately, that was not the case and we released the only thing we found – Michael’s own viewing copy of the concert. We continue to search for the original elements in the hopes that one day we will be able to share this concert in the best possible format. Just like the fans, we would be ecstatic if this happens.
There was the first of two long-form documentaries produced by the Estate with director Spike Lee at the helm, BAD25, which was premiered at the Venice Film Festival and broadcast on ABC in the United States and broadcast on television throughout the rest of the world. The longer “director’s cut” of the documentary was also released on DVD/Blu-Ray.
There was also a deal with Pepsi to promote the 25th anniversary of Bad and the Bad World Tour, for which Pepsi was the sponsor. As part of the deal with Pepsi, special limited-edition cans were released around the world.
2013: The second live show created by the Estate and Cirque du Soleil, Michael Jackson ONE, which is a more intimate show than the touring show, premiered at its permanent home at Mandalay Bay Resort & Hotel in Las Vegas. While we are aware that it is not possible for everyone to travel to Las Vegas to see this show, we are proud to say it continues to be one of the most successful Las Vegas shows. In fact, it is one of the best shows in the world and is a fitting tribute to Michael Jackson. While it was forced to shutter along with all other live events in early 2020 as a result of the COVID 19 pandemic, it will reopen when it is safe and will continue to entertain audiences for years to come.
2014: The second album featuring previously unreleased recordings, Xscape, was executive produced with L.A. Reid who brought in current producers including Timbaland, and the album also included the first posthumously released duet by Michael. Justin Timberlake joined Michael on a version of “Love Never Felt So Good”. This album went to #1 all over the world and another song from this album, “Slave To The Rhythm”, was featured in the hologram performance on the Billboard Music Awards, which gave the show its biggest ratings in decades.
2016: Based on the success of BAD25, the Estate and Spike Lee partnered on a second documentary, Michael Jackson’s Journey From Motown to OFF THE WALL, which looked back at Michael’s early career path and culminates with an in-depth look at Off The Wall. This critically acclaimed documentary premiered at the Sundance Film Festival and was broadcast on Showtime in the United States and by other broadcasters around the world. It was also released on Blu-Ray/DVD.
2017: To celebrate the connection between Michael Jackson and Halloween, there was the premiere of the original animated television special, Michael Jackson’s Halloween, which had the best ratings of the night outside of the World Series game. There were also special events in a half dozen select cities around the world that included the screening of the full length version of Ghosts, Michael’s epic short film with Stan Winston, and a special screening of Thriller 3D, which actually had its premiere at a return trip to the Venice Film Festival.. And there was a release of a Halloween themed compilation album/playlist, Scream.
There was also another deal with Pepsi to include Michael in their global campaign, which again included the release of special limited-edition Pepsi cans featuring Michael Jackson imagery.
2018: The critically acclaimed Michael Jackson: On The Wall exhibition premiered at London’s National Portrait Gallery on June 28. Following its record setting run in London, the exhibition travelled to three other major European locations – Paris, France, Bonn, Germany and Espoo, Finland. This innovative and unique experience was appreciated and enjoyed by fans and other members of the general public in each city.
In July, a sample from a previously unreleased Michael Jackson recording, “It Don’t Matter To Me”, was licensed in a new similarly titled Drake recording, “Don’t Matter To Me” to further our intention of introducing Michael to new generations of fans through collaborations with current artists. This duet would become Michael’s 44th top ten Billboard chart hit.
And in August, on what would have been Michael’s 60th birthday, we hosted the Diamond Celebration in Las Vegas. In addition to all of the normal birthday festivities hosted by the Estate at Michael Jackson ONE in Las Vegas every year, there was an extra special party attended by invited guests and fans featuring a DJ set by Mark Ronson and a performance by Usher.
Thriller 3D was premiered in IMAX in a limited 1-week engagement in theaters around the world with the Universal/Amblin release, “The House With A Clock In Its Walls” to rave reviews. We hope to find opportunities to show Thriller 3D again in the future.
2019/2020: The Estate had a number of plans, including those for the 10th anniversary of the release of This Is It, that were all impacted by the release of Leaving Neverland. Regardless of the fact that it is not truthful and will be exposed for its lies, in the short term, its release made other media companies reluctant, at least temporarily, to license any new Michael Jackson programming. This has already started to pass. And, of course, in 2020 we are all dealing with the COVID-19 pandemic that has resulted in a delay for the opening of MJ the Musical on Broadway, as well as impacting other plans we had for this year.
All of this is a way to remind everyone how much the Estate actually has done in the last eleven years, and also to remind everyone that as the result of forces and events out of our control, we had to put a pause on big activities for the last eighteen months. There is a theory – one that Michael subscribed to – that one shouldn’t do too much, give the world a rest, and then surprise them with special projects. That remains the Estate’s intention. Michael continues to be the number one streaming catalog artist in the world and with soar to new heights when the Broadway show opens and we are able to complete and release the other projects in process.
As has been stated previously, the Estate won’t release everything in the vaults based in large part on the choices Michael himself made during his life.
If we released demos by themselves, they would not show Michael in his best light, and would not be commercially successful because they are, by definition, unfinished. While releasing unfinished work may be appreciated by the fans, it would not be the way to introduce Michael to new fans who should hear Michael at his best. That is certainly how Michael decided what to release and we believe that is what he would want us to do. And even among the fans, we see disagreement on whether unreleased material should be finished to make them commercially viable or not.
Michael had several philosophies that we use as guides. One of those is, “The quality goes in before the name goes on.” Just because something exists doesn’t mean it should be made public – and sharing with the fans is the same as making it public.
Just because something has been leaked by a fan doesn’t mean that it is something which should have an official release. The fact that it is leaked means that Michael didn’t intend for it to be shared by whomever he may have trusted with it in the first place.
Many of the decisions made by the Estate are rooted in Michael’s philosophies. He has said that, “If Haley’s Comet passed over once a month, no one would to look at it.” The Estate doesn’t want Michael to be permanently on a car radio or on an app where people are jumping from Elvis to Bruce Springsteen. Michael is special. The Estate has licensed SiriusXM three times in the last 11 years and, when appropriate, would consider doing so again. Most recently, a temporary channel was launched on July 15, 2020 as a way of offering something special during these difficult times and great care was taken in programming the channel to include not only Michael’s big hits but other songs that would be appreciated by his fans as well as songs by people who might have influenced Michael, and people who Michael might have influenced. Working with SiriusXM, special playlists were also created for the channel by people who knew Michael, as well as by artists who were influenced by him (and are big fans as well). And rather than a typical voiceover artist, the voice of the channel is also someone who knew Michael for many years, Steven Ivory, who shared a very special playlist on the channel that speaks to the current times in the world. While it may not have been available to everyone around the globe, it is hoped that those who were able to listen, enjoyed it.
In our opinion this album is Michael’s most underappreciated and one of his very best. Although they were never announced, the Estate had plans to celebrate the 25th anniversary of the HIStory album this year, but because of COVID-19, those plans had to be modified. So, while we still have plans to celebrate HIStory with appropriate audio and audiovisual elements, we don’t believe in making announcements until we are in a position to share all of the relevant details. It is our hope that the world will open up again soon, and allow our creators to finish their work.
As you know, Michael has topped the list of highest earning celebrities and/or the list of highest earnings celebrity estates every year since he passed away. Recently there has been some fan speculation and comparison with the Prince Estate in particular. We know there are some fans who are fans of both Prince and Michael, and that’s understandable. Prince was a genius in his own right. He was an incredible artist. But nobody can compare Prince with Michael and nobody can compare the Prince Estate with the Michael Jackson Estate. A little-known fact is that in 2019 the Michael Jackson catalog enjoyed 7.3 billion streams, an increase of over 20% from the prior year’s 5.4 billion streams which was already outpacing the market and made Michael the #1 catalog streaming artist in the world. Michael’s many fans – both long and loyal, and brand new – deserve all the credit for supporting and continuing to listen to Michael Jackson. And we at the Estate want to take this opportunity to acknowledge, salute and thank you, the Michael Jackson fan community, for your continuing unconditional love and support for Michael as a person, an artist and a humanitarian.
The Estate has every intention of upgrading Michael’s short films wherever possible. Upgrading Michael’s short films is more akin to what is required for older theatrical motion pictures as opposed to music videos by other artists in large part due to all of the work (e.g., effects, etc.) customarily done on each short film beyond the actual filming and the manner and format in which all of that work was originally done. A few short films, like “Thriller” and “Smooth Criminal”, have 35 mm masters where the upgrade is expensive but much more doable. However, that is not the case for most of the short films and, in these cases, the process is more expensive and requires more work (and time). In some cases, it may not even be possible if all we have is a poor quality master tape and no original source materials are located. It is important for fans to understand that not everything that was created by Michael actually made it into Michael’s storage facilities (including, for example, the high def footage of the full Bad Tour concert at Wembley even though we know that Michael shot “Another Part of Me” at that and other concerts on film to create the short film for that song). But we will continue to look for the best solution for the challenges we face with each of the short films and we look forward to sharing the upgraded short films when the work required has been completed.
The Estate is taking the legal action for which it has a legal basis, with its request for public arbitration in the dispute with HBO. The purpose of this is to expose those involved, under penalty of perjury, for the liars that they are. Beyond that, the fans can’t – and won’t ever – know what the Estate has done behind the scenes. The Estate doesn’t always want to be publicly acknowledged or credited for what it does; all that matters is that the Estate supports the dissemination of accurate information about Michael.
Neverland unfortunately cannot be open for public visitation. We wish it could. Its location and the applicable zoning regulations prohibit opening it up to the public. During his lifetime, Michael explored this possibility and was faced with the fact that it could not be done.
Neverland is managed and controlled by Colony Capital, not by the Estate. This is based on a contract Michael signed in 2008. We did explore with Colony Capital a number of potential options for Neverland, including donating it to the State of California to be preserved for historical purposes and special events, but none proved feasible and ultimately Colony decided to sell the property. Neverland has always been and will continue to be a very expensive property to maintain. Thus, without any viable option to generate income from the property, Colony’s decision to find a buyer is understandable and it is the same reason that the Estate cannot purchase the property. We trust that any new owners will respect the historical importance and special nature of this wonderful property.
We also think it is important to keep in mind that as magical and beautiful a place as Neverland was during the years Michael lived there, it was not his home for the last few years of his life and he publicly stated that it would not be his home again. Michael’s music, vision and messages remain ever present with us – the artist, the creative genius and the caring human being with an unparalleled passion for the planet and the people who inhabit it. This will continue to be immortal and inspire generations to come.
We do hope that there will be a Michael Jackson Museum. We have and will continue to explore that possibility. We are also researching the possibility that the Hayvenhurst property could be opened for limited public tours and we are optimistic about this possibility. While this is not imminent, it is something we would like to accomplish.
Eventually more music will be released but there is nothing in the vaults that is finished and ready for release. We don’t and won’t release everything in the vaults based on the choices Michael made during his life.
We agree with LA Reid’s philosophy on Xscape: we prefer to start with those recordings on which Michael sang full vocals because we know those are the ones he put the most work into. We are criticized by some fans when we don’t release unreleased material. And we are criticized by other fans when we release unreleased material using top producers, many of whom worked with Michael, to finish the recordings. If we released demos by themselves, they would not be commercially successful because they are, by definition, unfinished.
The Scream album and the animated Halloween special were inspired by Michael’s love of Halloween and animation as well as the public interest every October in Thriller. Michael Jackson’s Halloween and the Scream album are intended to serve as the first part of a slate of Halloween releases to take place in future years – we love the idea of Michael Jackson dominating Halloween!
Scream is meant to be a playlist that will return to streaming services each October and there may also be special collector vinyl and CD releases like this year’s glow in the dark vinyl that could include other content or surprises as well.
Similarly, Michael Jackson’s Halloween is intended as an annual release, like the animated Charlie Brown holiday specials, ultimately being broadcast in most countries around the world each year. Though while not intended to compete with the $100 million + budget animation theatrical films, the quality of this animation exceeds anything that’s on television. It is meant for family viewing and to attract new fans. As importantly, it offers an opportunity to hear Michael’s music in an entirely new way and to share one of Michael’s own guiding principles – believe in yourself and follow your dreams – in a fun and entertaining way. Just as in Ghosts, Michael plays many parts and appears in multiple disguises, including as a stylized, superhero version of himself that fits in this magical world. It is not meant to be a true representation of the actual person but rather a magical character that belongs in the world that has been created. We recommend watching the program with a great stereo and the volume turned up.It is also a showpiece to allow Hollywood film and TV directors and global merchandisers to experience how effectively Michael’s music can be used to drive a story.
The Halloween take-over doesn’t stop there! We know everyone will enjoy the new short films, “Blood on the Dance Floor 2017” and “Blood on the Dance Floor X Dangerous” that feature Michael’s footage from his original short films. And next year, we intend to add a release of “Thriller 3D” or “Ghosts 3D” in movie theaters around the world as part of the annual celebration.
These projects, and others that may be added in subsequent years, when taken together will help introduce Michael to new generations of fans and help parents introduce Michael to their children. For example, we heard of a fan who played “Torture” for his wife which led to her wanting to hear more Michael and Jacksons music. While we are happy to know that fans are enjoying the album, anecdotes like this mean we are also finding new fans!
We love and appreciate the passion of Michael’s fans. We know how privileged we are to have known and have worked with Michael and we take seriously the trust he put in us to manage his assets and his legacy. We also know how fortunate we are that, with the King of Pop, “the greatest entertainer that ever lived”, comes an enormous, diverse and passionate fan community with varying and sometimes conflicting views about everything related to Michael. And that naturally includes the projects undertaken by the Estate. We therefore welcome the fans’ comments and great support as, even when there is criticism, it demonstrates a shared passion and love for Michael.
It is interesting to note that we were criticized by members of Michael’s family for the release of This Is It, which went on to become not only the most successful concert documentary in history, but a film that offers a rare behind-the-scenes glimpse of Michael’s true artistic genius. We were criticized by a few journalists for the show created with Cirque du Soleil, Michael Jackson THE IMMORTAL World Tour. The show went on to become one of the most successful touring shows of all time. Fortunately, we have not been criticized by virtually anyone for Michael Jackson ONE, the permanent show in Las Vegas, which has already been seen by more than 3.5 million people since its premiere and continues to one of the top shows in Las Vegas. These projects demonstrate the immense and enduring popularity of Michael Jackson.
The critiques we do receive remind us that we can’t please everyone all the time. We too are Michael fans and we do our best to create projects which we would like to see and hear. The purpose of creating these projects is to enhance Michael’s legacy, to please and excite wherever possible the existing fans, and to introduce Michael to new generations of fans. And rest assured, sooner or later we will get to many of the projects that we know the fans want, including anniversary albums and documentaries for Dangerous and HIStory.
Many of these bother us every bit as much as they bother the fans. However, we make a serious analysis with the help of our litigators to determine whether or not we have the legal grounds to stop a particular project. If we do, we act. But in many cases, we do not. And to make an unsuccessful effort to stop projects would only bring more attention to these awful and, in many cases, vile projects. The one thing that can be said is that no music under our control will be heard in these projects.
There remain no plans to release a soundtrack album for Michael Jackson ONE. However, we certainly look forward to the show reopening when it is safe to do so and to welcoming all of the fans back to the Michael Jackson ONE Theater at Mandalay Bay in Las Vegas.