Michael Jackson has sold an estimated 35 million albums worldwide since his death one year ago today, according to — an unprecedented response to a musician's passing.
"Last year, when we saw the instant response from consumers wanting to purchase Jackson's albums, there was nothing to compare it to," Keith Caulfield, Billboard Senior Chart Manager and Analyst, told AccessHollywood.com. "Certainly since SoundScan began tracking sales in 1991."
While a shocking number of beloved musicians have suffered untimely deaths over the last two decades — Nirvana's Kurt Cobain, Jeff Buckley, Notorious B.I.G., Tupac Shakur, Aaliyah, TLC's Lisa "Left Eye" Lopes and Elliott Smith, to name a few — none have resonated with audiences quite like the King of Pop's. According to Billboard, in the U.S. alone, he sold 9 million albums over the last 12 months, with another 800,000 for sales of his releases with his brothers as the Jackson 5 and Jacksons - and another 12.9 million track downloads.
The music sales are only part of a worldwide Jackson phenomenon that has included ringtones, ticket and home video sales for the Sony Pictures concert film "This Is It," publishing revenue and more, generating a reported billion dollars in overall grosses since the singer's death.
"This particular situation is unique — the reaction from fans, the reaction of the marketplace — all of that was uncharted territory," Caulfield said, adding that a sales bump is likely this week as fans honor the anniversary of Jackson's death. "His catalog is still selling quite well."
Jackson's label, Sony Music, is counting on it — per Billboard, the company has promised the Jackson estate $200 to $250 million in a multi-year deal that will include the release of 10 albums, counting last year's "This Is It" soundtrack and including an upcoming November disc of unreleased material and a reissue in 2011 of 1979's classic "Off The Wall."
What Jackson had in the vaults, and what form the future releases will take, remains mysterious.
"We know that he was working on material with a number of different artists — Akon, Will.i.am, Lenny Kravitz, for example - but who knows in what state those recordings might be in," Caulfield said.
Access Hollywood, in fact, was with Michael and Will.i.am in Ireland in 2006, when they were working together on new music.
One thing's for sure — the world won't forget Michael Jackson and his music any time soon.
"Michael Jackson existed on his own plane — in sales, in artistry — there was Michael, and then there was everyone else," Caulfield said.
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