It's all over except for the shouting.
That's what my very inside source says about Michael Jackson's ownership of the Beatles song catalog. The situation is a mess and it's only going to get worse starting next week.
Here's where things stand: Michael, according to my source, who knows more about this than almost anyone, has borrowed a total of $260 million from Sony Music against royalties, whatever, you name it. What does he need the money for? Well, do you run a zoo in your backyard?
Of that total, it seems that $200 million was leveraged against the Beatles song catalog, which Michael used as collateral. Although this figure has been reported here and in other places recently, my source also says that Michael had a separate loan of $60 million from the company.
Some of that $60 million may have gone to the restoration of Michael's album catalogue, which sources have told me he spent unnecessary millions on.
With all this, Sony Music essentially has a lien on the Beatles catalogue. "And they're going to call that note soon," says the insider. "They've had a terrible year, bottom line, so this will be the only thing they have to look forward to."
Now, Sony's publicist will call up and squawk that it's been a great year. They'll cite Destiny's Child, Jennifer Lopez and Train among their hits. And it's true, they had hits. But not enough hits to pay all the bills.
The company also let Mariah Carey walk out on an outstanding record contract with Glitter, an album they paid to record.
But back to Michael. I thought we were always told how astute he was at business deals. "What???" my source exclaims and then guffaws. "Are you kidding?"
Jackson, you may recall, got hold of the Beatles catalog in 1984, when he was tipped off by Paul McCartney that it was for sale. McCartney and Yoko Ono couldn't agree on anything, and Michael's reps swept in.
But my source also says that McCartney's brother-in-law and lawyer, John Eastman, was close to cutting a deal even before 1984. "But Yoko screwed things up then too, and it fell through."
Eastman did not return calls.
The Beatles catalogue is currently estimated to be worth around $500 million.
McCartney is still so angry with Jackson that he omitted their duet singles, which hit No. 1, from his recent career retrospective album Wingspan. He also cooked up his own group charity single called "Freedom," three days before "The Concert for New York," knowing Michael was planning to unveil his own anthem at the Washington, D.C., concert the following night.
"Freedom," performed live with Eric Clapton, Pete Townshend and Roger Daltrey among others, will be shown on Wednesday night when CBS broadcasts a one-hour version of the concert.
But I digress: Jackson's day of reckoning will come on Tuesday when Sony releases his Invincible album. If you don't think Sony is anticipating a failure in advance — resulting in Michael's financial instability and their possession of the Beatles songs — then consider this:. Invincible is an album with a $30 million price tag and no marketing plan.
For example, as of last night Invincible was not being featured in any special way on Amazon.com for pre-ordering. Sony has not put any marketing money or muscle into it, and so the Amazon music front page doesn't even mention the album.
When you do find Invincible on amazon.com, you can buy it at a discount bundled with the new rap album by DMX on Def Jam Records. The Great Depression is as hard-core as Invincible is soft and malleable. It comes with an "explicit version" sticker, and they mean it. The Sony marketing department must have stayed up late trying to cook up this idea. What a match: Peter Pan and Eminem's off-spring, together at last.
More bad news for Michael, maybe good news for Sony: Not yet released, Invincible ranks at No. 41 on the Amazon bestseller chart, considerably behind other unreleased albums by acts like Lenny Kravitz and the Backstreet Boys.
I was a little worried that William H. Macy — who opens today in a new movie called Focus — wasn't getting enough work. After all, he mostly stars in indie films. No Armageddon for him. Just an Oscar nomination for his work in the Coen brothers' Fargo.
But rest assured, Macy is fine. He told me at the premiere of Focus that he and writing partner Steven Schachter have been churning out scripts for movies of the week — and they're batting 1.000.
"We wrote A Slight Case of Murder which my wife, Felicity Huffman was also in. That did very well. Our next one is called Door to Door."
Macy was also the co-writer of the eerily prescient movie Above Suspicion, in which a pre-accident Christopher Reeve played a paralyzed, wheelchair bound cop.
But no offers since Fargo from the Coens, despite Macy's for-the-ages performance as Jerry Lundegaard, the Oldsmobile car dealer with murder on his mind.
"Maybe they felt I was too identified with them. I don't know," Macy confessed with a shrug. "I'd love to work with them again. They just haven't called."
It seems that Sean Lennon's spotlighted performances at the TNT John Lennon tribute were not just a fluke. He was actually auditioning for a record label contract. Aren't you surprised? I'm shocked. And guess what label signed him? None other than Capitol, home to the Beatles and John Lennon since 1964.
Not being the kind of kid who wants to cash in on his father's legacy, Sean will also be singing the Beatles song Across the Universe on the soundtrack to the new Sean Penn movie, I Am Sam, with cohorts Moby and Rufus Wainwright.
Now you see? That's a marketing plan.
To read Roger Friedman's review of Michael Jackson's latest album, click here.
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