Scandals around abuse allegations, his appearance and bizarre behavior dimmed his star. His 2001 album, "Invincible," sold poorly and cost a lot to produce. When The Hard Rock Casino auctioned off 1,100 lots of Jackson memorabilia in 2007, sales were reportedly slow.
But as is the case with legends from Jesus to Jim Morrison, passing on also means apotheosis. Market analysts say his estate -- and whoever ends up controlling it -- will see massive sales of licensed merchandise, music and memorabilia.
So, who handles Michael Jackson products and merchandise? There is MJ Licensing LLC, which reportedly has rights in Europe through mid 2012. Jackson reportedly launched Singapore-based MJ Marketing Pte. Ltd in 2002, which signed a deal with Japanese apparel company Wakita Co. to make a Michael Jackson line to sell in Japan. MJ Marketing will, reportedly, have rights to the Michael Jackson name in Asia through 2012, as well.
There is a DVD, "Michael Jackson: Never Surrender" -- due for release on July 9, the day after Jackson was scheduled to launch his UK concert series. The DVD reportedly features previously unseen film footage, rare and exclusive interviews, contributions from those who have known him best and the finest broadcasters and journalists in the business, plus news reports, location shoots and a host of other features.
Robert Hollander, founder of L.A.-based Brand Sense Marketing, which handles licensing for Britney Spears, tells Marketing Daily Michael Jackson's iconography will efface the particulars of his life. "There are those -- his fans -- who believe he never outgrew his childhood. Elvis died under extreme circumstances, and his last years were not attractive, but that hasn't slowed down the Elvis estate," he says. "There is no question the core of long-term revenue streams will be the music.
"There is Sinatra, the Beatles, Elvis and Michael Jackson," says Hollander. "He is the last one to have completely changed the music scene and popular culture. I don't see anyone else who has done that in his time. There will be a big resurgence because of his death: music, videos, commemorative everything. Commercially, the vultures are circling as we speak, and that will be an interesting sideshow. I went on eBay [Thursday] afternoon and already things were for sale from 'the late great.' It didn't take two hours."
Matt Delzell, group account director at Dallas-based Davie-Brown Entertainment, a division of The Marketing Arm, agrees. "Kurt Cobain, Elvis, John Lennon, Johnny Cash -- many of their estates are making just as much if not more after they passed. And their passing sets aside controversy, and focuses attention on their iconic status. Michael Jackson was the biggest entertainer of our time. You will see record sales -- iTune sales -- skyrocket."
Tributes began immediately: SIRIUS XM Radio commemorated Michael Jackson with special programming across a wide range of its music channels on Friday evening. VH1 began a commemorative broadcast on Saturday.