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$$$$: So Michael Jackson once bought most of the Beatles song publishing - does that mean his estate is now raking in the bucks from the newest round of Fab Four marketing, including the Rock Band game and digital album releases?

  The question was posed to Bullseye Records President Jaimie Vernon, whose label represents Beatlesque progrock icons KLAATU, on the Klaatu mailing list. His reply:

SONY/ATV & Michael Jackson's music company would each share the publishing royalty -- which, as stated, is only paid on units SOLD (any CDs that are returned to Capitol-EMI for refund by retailers are discounted). And that amount is believed to be 50% of $0.0825 for every ORIGINAL song on every album except those written by George Harrison and Ringo Starr or the four songs held back by Dick James when he originally sold the song catalog to Northern Songs in 1968 ("From Me To You", "Love Me Do", "P.S. I Love You" and "Ask Me Why"). Those songs required separate publishing deals and revenue shares that do NOT involve Michael Jackson or his estate.

Lennon and McCartney each receive 1/2 of 50% of the $0.0825 songwriting royalty for every ORIGINAL song they wrote for any of the 13 Beatles CD remasters. McCartney has indicated that his unresolved rift between him and Michael Jackson dealt with his request, on behalf of him and Lennon -- to get a bigger songwriting royalty. This indicates to those outside the Beatle camp that the deal Jackson original purchased may have been pulling MORE than the industry standard 50% leaving Lennon & McCartney less than their 50%. McCartney asked for a raise and Jackson refused. They never spoke to each other again after that.

Regardless, BOTH  royalties are called the "mechanical" royalty -- one is the publishing share, one is the songwriting share. These royalty shares are also in place for any radio airplay that occurs around the world giving Jackson a piece of the Beatles everytime their songs get played -- or someone does a cover version.

To complicate matters, there are VIDEOS on each of these CD remasters which requires a synchronization royalty because the music is being married to visuals (i.e. film). So, the splits are nearly identical for that, though it's hard to say what the original publishing deal was that the songwriters signed in the 1960's.

THEN...there is the sales royalty based on the recordings themselves which has been a source of speculation for years. Epstein signed the Beatles to an absolutely criminal royalty rate with Parlophone in 1962 -- which included an equal share of the sale of every album to all four members of the band. The Beatles received a slightly larger pay increase upon renewing with Parlophone via Capitol Records in early 1967 -- and the term of the contract was extended from 5 years to 9 years...keeping the band tied to the label even after they'd split up -- finally elapsing in 1976. Lennon, Harrison and Starr all left Capitol at that time even after renewing the terms of their deal for BEATLES ONLY product for another 9 years [it is assumed the Beatles got another raise as Capitol was then allowed to release "Rock And Roll Music", "Hollywood Bowl" and "Rarities" as a concession].

That deal was renewed again every 5 years [giving us "Reel Music" and "20 Greatest Hits"] and by 1992/1993 The Beatles and their revived corporate representatives, Apple Records, laid out a business plan that would have Beatles product re-launched, like Disney movies, intermittently over the next 45-50 years. The "Anthologies" were the first salvo, followed by "1", The White Album Anniversary Remaster [not actually remastered, just reissued], "Yellow Submarine Songtrack", and "Let It Be: Naked" plus the most recent "Love" re-creation of classic tracks remixed.

There is no way of knowing how much money each of the Beatles is receiving for the CDs they sell. An EMI-Canada promotions manager for The Beatles "1" album told me years ago, he thinks it's 40% on the wholesale rate -- and that the Beatles do NOT allow any discounts of their product or promotional copies to be charged back to their account (which is standard practice...and why so many artists never make a dime from sales of their records).

The Beatles also renegotiated their "controlled composition" clauses in their deal. Standard practice in the music industry since RCA Records invented the Long Play album in 1948 is that a label would not pay a royalty for any song exceeding 10 compositions on a record. If you notice, many of the Beatles early albums have 12 or 14 tracks. The Beatles would only get paid for 10 of those songs on each album. As smart business men, even at the beginning, they realized that the more original compositions they had on each record, the more money they'd make. But Parlophone insisted on cover tunes -- so the Beatles fought to have 2 to 4 cover tunes on each of the early albums as 'throw aways' that were not counted against their 10 controlled compositions. [Robert Palmer changed the industry standard in 1990 when he insisted on getting paid for every song because of the extended play time of CD releases. His album featured 18 songs]

And make no mistake, the band makes money from EVERY single piece of merchandise that features their faces or the Beatles logo. This may look crass and greedy on the surface, but few people know that The Beatles never made a penny off Beatlemania between 1963 and 1966 because Brian Epstein gave the rights away for the band's merchandising during that 4 year period. All the money from Beatle wallpaper, curtains, lamps, mini-record players, combs, Beatle wigs, clothing accessories, et al went straight into the pockets of official licensees around the world. When Epstein died, the Beatles vowed to control all aspects of the group's intellectual and physical properties (where they could).

And this is why there is now a Beatles empire controlled by their representatives at Apple Records.


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