Music Article

Can't Beat It

Michael Jackson's latest record deal -- Behind the ''King of Pop'''s latest negotiations with CBS Records

Are Michael Jackson's much ballyhooed contract renegotiations with CBS Records all they're cracked up to be? If Michael makes out as reported, will other stars' prices immediately leap up too? While a source involved in the negotiations says the potential megadeal is like nothing that's ever been cut before, the gloved one's super-deal may, in fact, be largely super-hype.

Though no one is quite sure exactly what Jackson's being promised, rumored extras include his own label, a movie and TV development deal with Sony-owned Columbia Pictures, and more money from his records and home videos. But just how revolutionary this is remains unclear. Industry sources point out that CBS Records — soon to be renamed Sony Music Entertainment — has long been willing to grant Jackson his own label, and he has never lacked chances to make movies.

There's no discounting Jackson's power. He already commands the highest royalty rate in the record business — 42 percent of the wholesale price of his records. Trailing him are the Rolling Stones and Barbra Streisand, with about 40 percent, while a group of artists, including the Traveling Wilburys and Bruce Springsteen, are said to earn in the 37 percent range. Jackson's total income last year has been estimated at $35 million.

No matter how much of Jackson's negotiating is smoke-and-mirrors, the mere impression that he's scaling the money heights is bound to give other stars ideas. ''We're cheering him on,'' says the manager of one CBS Records superstar, who is hoping that a splashy-looking Jackson contract will cause the kind of financial waves in the music industry that big contracts create in the sports world.

Originally posted Dec 07, 1990 Published in issue #43 Dec 07, 1990 Order article reprints