In yet another reminder that classic “brands” are becoming increasingly important to the music biz, Universal Music Group has sealed deals involving two of pop’s biggest names: Frank Sinatra and Michael Jackson.
Frank Sinatra Enterprises, a joint venture of Warner Music and the Sinatra estate, is expected to announce today UMG’s multi-year license for 38 albums recorded by Sinatra for his own Reprise label, as well as 14 DVDs of performances. UMG has all rights outside North America to the works.
Meanwhile, UMG subsidiary company Bravado will be the exclusive manufacturer and distributor of Michael Jackson merchandise, both Stateside and around the world.
The Sinatra deal will include a re-release of his album “My Way” on its 40th anniversary. (Sinatra will also be the subject of the Twyla Tharp-choreographed “dance-ical” titled “Come Fly With Me,” set to premiere at Atlanta’s Alliance Theater next month.)
Sinatra recorded more than 1,500 songs and sold some 150 million platters in his long career. Rhino, the Warner Music arm that co-owns Frank Sinatra Enterprises, paid $50 million for its half of the venture.
At a time when diskeries are having a hard time finding new musical mega-acts, while technology is creating new potential venues for music sales, companies are tapping into classic pop titles. The Elvis Presley estate saw estimated revenues of $55 million last year. And Jackson’s June 25 death has renewed demand for his music and his likeness on everything from T-shirts to wine glasses.
UMG has a history of investing in back catalogs and likenesses — both at once, if possible. Last year, the company acquired worldwide rights to the recordings that Sinatra pal Dean Martin made for the Reprise label, as well as Martin’s name and likeness.
Though the music merchandising market is undermined by bootleggers, as well as secondary sales outlets like eBay, Bravado hopes to reach consumers by distributing its wares at national chains including Old Navy, Target, JCPenney and Hot Topic.
“Retailers throughout the world are loath to buy bootleg product once they find out that’s what it is,” posited Bravado CEO Tom Bennett, who said he’s already assembling a team of lawyers to fight piracy.
Sony still retains the rights to the music Jackson recorded as an adult, while UMG’s Motown imprint holds the rights to all the Jackson 5 recordings.
“We’ll be doing an awful lot of joint products with Motown,” Bennett said. “And, hopefully, some with Sony down the road.”
(Timothy M. Gray contributed to this report.)