Regardless of your generation, you’ve at least heard of Michael Jackson. His career spanned decades and he earned the title “King of Pop” fairly. His talented family continues to entertain us with quality music. His extensive music catalog still features in the regular mixes from many radio stations. He continues to inspire new generations of artists, as well. Michael Jackson may have died in 2009, but his legacy thrives in large part due to the efforts of legendary music attorney John Branca.
Branca first began representing Michael Jackson in 1980. After his disco-era hits of “Don’t Stop ‘Til You Get Enough” (1979) and “Rock With You” (1979) but before such hits as “Billie Jean” (1982) and “Beat It” (1982), Jackson was a already bona fide star with an established identity separate from his work with his family in The Jackson 5. When Jackson hired Branca, he cemented his independence from his family’s influence over his musical career. Branca’s hiring coincided with Jackson’s firing of his father, Joseph Jackson, as manager over Michael’s career.
Thrills and Chills
Branca’s vision for Jackson’s music career helped Jackson film his legendary “Thriller” video. Costing $1 million to make, it was an enormous investment for a time when music videos were still unproven as to how they could positively affect record sales. Branca encouraged Jackson to finance the video by selling “making of” documentary rights to Showtime. The impact of the “Thriller” music video endures today. “Thriller” had already been on the market for eighteen months, yet the music video netted the album another million copies in the week following the video’s release. Other artists and record companies began viewing videos as an integral part of making and selling their music after the success of “Thriller.”
With Michael’s unexpected death in 2009, John Branca transitioned from managing Jackson’s career to supervising Jackson’s enduring legacy. Branca started that by renegotiating a deal with Sony Music that eventually led to Sony purchasing the music catalog ATV Music Publishing owed for $750 million. Jackson had purchased ATV Music Publishing in 1985 for $47.5 million on Branca’s advice.
Branca continues to steer Jackson’s estate into a spot among the top-grossing dead celebrities. His projects to extend Jackson’s legacy include documentaries, Cirque du Soliel shows, a video game and a holographic ‘performance’ at the Billboard Music Awards.
Without the partnership with John Branca, Michael Jackson’s career wouldn’t have the lasting impact it still enjoys today.