Sales of Jackson songs and memorabilia rise after his death

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Saturday, June 27, 2009

Michael Jackson in 1988
Image: Alan Light.

The death of Michael Jackson on Thursday has caused retail demand for his songs and for memorabilia to increase.

Song sales

Yesterday, the top nine selling items at Apple's iTunes Store were albums by Jackson, with first and second being a "hits" album and the 1982 album Thriller.

Amazon.com similarly reported selling more Jackson merchandise in the 24 hours following his death than it had sold in the preceding 11 years, and that sales of Jackson CDs accounted for 60% of its total business on Thursday. Yesterday morning the top seller in the album chart for Amazon's U.K. division was Off the Wall, followed by Bad and Thriller in second and third places, respectively.

Many stores, including Graywhale CD Exchange in Salt Lake City, several record stores in Danville, Virginia, and many retailers in New Zealand, have all reported selling out of Jackson's CDs and DVDs. The flagship store of Tower Records Japan, in Shinjuku, sold out of several of Jackson's DVDs and ran low on several other items including CDs. The Danville Register Bee recommended to its readers that if they had record players they should investigate antique and charity shops, after one antique shop reported discovering three Jackson Five vinyl albums in its basement.

The effect of the increase in sales had an effect on stock prices. Midday yesterday, Apple shares rose around 2%, Amazon shares rose around 1.3%, and eBay shares rose by 0.64%. Stock market analysts predict that this will be a short-term effect, however. Scott Fullman, an investment strategist at WJB Capital Group in New York, stated "This is going to be one of these events that will have an immediate impact and then wane out in a week or two.".

Memorabilia sales

In Las Vegas, 21 items of Jackson memorabilia, including handwritten lyrics for Jackson's song "Bad" and the shirt that Jackson wore on his Victory Tour in 1984, sold at auction yesterday at the Planet Hollywood Resort and Casino for a total of USD$205,000, with the shirt, at USD$52,500 the most expensive individual item.

eBay has reported an increase in individuals auctioning Jackson memorabilia. These range from records to a Fedora hat signed by Jackson.

Also for sale on eBay and elsewhere are tickets to the This Is It concerts, at the O2 arena, where Jackson had been scheduled to perform. Ticket sellers such as Ticketmaster, Seatwave, and AEG Live have announced that they will be refunding concert tickets. But under standard contract law such refunds only apply to the original purchasor of the ticket, who dealt with the ticket companies directly. Anyone buying a ticket on eBay only has recourse against the seller on eBay that they bought from, and even then only if it was explicitly stated in the terms and conditions of the particular eBay sale that a refund was available.

At the 2009 Glastonbury Festival, stalls have been selling commemorative T-shirts to Festival attendees, with various different slogans including "Michael Jackson R.I.P 1958–2009" and "I was at Glasto 09 when Jacko died". T-shirt vendors also appeared outside of the UCLA Medical Center where paramedics took Jackson, proferring for USD$10 T-shirts with the slogan "in loving memory of Michael Jackson" and a silhouette of Jackson, although they had few takers.

In Union Square in New York, one street artist was selling hand-made buttons that have pictures of Jackson's album covers on them. In Times Square, another T-shirt vendor was selling T-shirts printed with copies of the front page of USA Today that reported Jackson's death.

One observer, Allison Southwick (a Better Business Bureau spokeswoman), commented "I'm honestly expecting to see a Web site pop up by the end of the day selling Michael Jackson commemorative plates." Whilst such commemorative plates have yet to appear, collectors have been offering commemorative stamps of Jackson for sale on eBay and elsewhere. Several commemorative stamps of Jackson already exist. Saint Vincent and the Grenadines issued $5, $2, $1, and 60¢ Michael Jackson stamps in 1985, as part of its Leaders Of The World series. Tanzania issued a 350s stamp, part of a Famous Black Entertainers set, in 1990. Guinea issued a 500f stamp in 1991. St Vincent issued another $2 Jackson stamp in 1991, as part of Famous Entertainers series. And Grenada issued a 60¢ Jackson stamp, part of its Gold Record Winners series in 1992.

Comparison to history

Elvis Presley in 1970
Image: Public Domain.

Gore Vidal once remarked of the death of rival Truman Capote that it was a "good career move". The death of an artist does serve to increase the popularity of their works. People have speculated whether this will be a temporary or a permanent thing for Jackson.

Jim Lentz, who is the Chief Operating Officer of American Royal Arts (a memorabilia dealership in Boca Raton), asked "Is he Elvis or Marilyn Monroe, or is he Mike Tyson?".

Elvis Presley died at 42, officially of heart failure. Stores sold out of his records and souveniers within hours of the news of his death. In the 20 years following his death, RCA Records sold approximately 400 million of his recordings.

In the days and weeks immediately following Presley's death, RCA had to sub-contract pressing to other companies, as it was unable by itself to keep up with demand. Sony Corporation announced yesterday that it had received "unprecedented" levels of orders for CDs of Jackson's music, and was considering boosting production. It had received 150,000 orders for CDs at its music unit in Tokyo. "The amount is unprecedented for one day and we think we need to consider increasing the production of CDs that we plan to sell from July." said a spokesman for the company. Amazon has been informing customers buying Jackson CDs that they might have to wait between 1 and 3 weeks for their orders to be shipped.

Related news

Sources

  • Marshall William Fishwick "Popular culture: cavespace to cyberspace". Haworth Press, 121, 1999
  • George Plimpton "Truman Capote: In Which Various Friends, Enemies, Acquaintences and Detractors Recall His Turbulent Career". Knopf Publishing Group, 430, 1998
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