Los Angeles - Sony Music executives
will meet this week in New York to determine a strategy for marketing
the nine albums, soundtracks and compilations that feature Whitney
Houston, the pop singer who died on Saturday at age 48, according to two
people familiar with the plans.
Executives will also discuss stepping up marketing efforts for the upcoming film Sparkle,
a low-budget movie starring Houston that will be released in August,
and for the accompanying soundtrack on which she sings two songs, added
one of the people with knowledge of the conversations.
Houston's death is the second in three years for a top-tier Sony Music
artist. In 2009, following Michael Jackson's death, the New York-based
company aggressively marketed Jackson's prior albums, selling more than
8.2 million in the US and more than 35 million worldwide, according to
Sony executives are expected to wait until after the
results of a post-mortem are known before re-releasing albums or
otherwise openly marketing the late singer, according to one of the
people familiar with the conversations. A tribute concert featuring
other Sony artists and those with whom Houston had worked in the past is
also being contemplated, this person said.
No large revenue share
"Michael Jackson's passing was the perfect storm for Sony because he
was getting ready for a world tour that was already getting a lot of
publicity," said Lance Grode, a former head of worldwide business
affairs for MCA Records, now Universal Music. "You don't want to look
too eager but you also want to capitalise on the attention the star is
getting right now."
In 2010, Sony released a re-mastered 25-year anniversary edition of Houston's debut 1985 album Whitney Houston, and the company will likely boost marketing of that record, said one of the people with knowledge of Sony.
Houston's Christmas album, One Wish: The Holiday Album, currently listed on Amazon.com for $7.53, will almost certainly be re-issued this fall, said the person.
On Sunday, fans had already driven Whitney Houston - The Greatest Hits to the top of the charts on Amazon.com, and her signature hit single I Will Always Love You, was the top download on iTunes.
Michael Jackson, who controlled much of his music, Houston did not
enjoy a very large share of the revenues from her work. Sony's Legacy
Records owns the catalogue of her albums, and pays Houston, or her
estate, royalties for her singing. Houston did not write her hit songs,
and doesn't share in the revenues for publishing rights.
Davis, Sony's chief creative officer and former CEO of Arista, stands to
collect a share of the royalties as well for the three Houston albums
on which he is credited as producer or executive producer. For those
albums, he could get as much as 10% - or "points" - of the royalties,
an accepted industry practice, according to one of the industry
A Davis spokesperson did not return calls. Sony would
not comment beyond a statement in which the company said "Whitney
Houston was an icon and a once-in-lifetime talent who influenced a
generation of singers and brought joy to millions of fans around the
world. She will be greatly missed."
Universal Music Group, a unit of Vivendi, will also share in the
anticipated increase in Whitney Houston sales. In 2007, the company
purchased the music publishing rights to songs such as The Greatest Love of All, Didn't We Have it All and Saving All My Love for You from songwriter Michael Masser.
Singer Dolly Parton controls the publishing rights, which enables her to license music, to I Will Always Love You. Parton wrote and recorded the song in 1973.
Whitney did it, I got all the money for the publishing and for the
writing, and I bought a lot of cheap wigs," Parton told CNN's Anderson
Cooper in an interview in January.
Warner Brothers, a unit of Time Warner, controls the rights for the 1992 film The Bodyguard,
which stars Houston as a singer and actress and Kevin Costner as her
bodyguard and lover. The movie earned $121m in US theatre ticket sales
and $410m worldwide, according to the Internet site Box Office Mojo.
Sony controls the rights to the soundtrack, which has sold more than 44
million copies worldwide, and it will almost certainly be re-released
soon, said one of the people with knowledge of Sony's plans. Nielsen
Soundscan says it is the best-selling soundtrack of the last 20 years
and the sixth best-selling album since Soundscan began measuring sales
"When a star first dies, fans are desperate for one last
performance," said Mark Young, a University of Southern California
business professor and author of the book The Mirror Effect: How Celebrity Narcissism is Seducing America.
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