There’s been much angst over what to do about Michael Jackson in the wake of HBO’s broadcast of the Michael-was-a-serial-pedo documentary, Leaving Neverland. What should become of his music now that these new allegations are out there?
Radio stations from Quebec to Norway to Australia and New Zealand have stopped playing his songs while other outlets are watching the situation very closely. Some record stores have taken a stance and are now refusing to sell his stuff. The Simpsons pulled “Stark Raving Dad,” the 1991 episode featuring Jackson, from their syndication list.
Meanwhile, the Jackson estate is suing HBO for $100 million while fans around the world continue to protest Jackson’s innocence.
What’s been the effect of all this on the sale of Jackson streams and record sales? Data from Nielsen Canada and SoundScan offers the following for the week ending March 7, which covers the two days of the Leaving Neverland broadcast plus three more. (Via FYIMusicNews)
- Sales of physical albums: Up 48%
- Sales of digital albums: Up 27%
- Sales of digital tracks: Up 8%
- On-demand streams: Up 7%.
The one area with a decline was radio airplay of Jackson’s songs, which saw a 27% decline in the above period. However, there was still plenty of his music on North American radio over the last week.
- “Billie Jean” was spun 1,423 times last week. That’s down from 1,830 the week before.
- Michael Jackson was heard on the radio 11,947 times, down from 15,744 from a week prior.
Is this the start of a trend or just a momentary blip? We won’t know for a couple more weeks.
I’ve been giving this a lot of thought and here’s are my (still-evolving) conclusions:
- Jackson has been dead for almost ten years. The man behind the music cannot be enriched by or benefit from his music. Erasing him will serve no punishment upon him and therefore be moot. That will, however, impact people associated with the music but not his deeds. Think of all the producers, musicians, engineers, employees Sony Records and others who worked on that music. They’re still alive and totally blameless for anything Jackson did. Should they be punished, too?
- The music itself is undeniably brilliant. People are going to keep enjoying it, dancing to it, singing along to it. However, knowing what we know now, songs like “Man in the Mirror” or “PYT” or any song talking about children have been rendered unlistenable to many–me, included.
- The more we learn about Jackson’s hideous proclivities, the bigger the asterisk next to all his songs becomes. The pedo stigma attached to Jackson is there forever and will never go away. It’s possible that society will slowly weed him out as his image continues to take hit after hit.
- Then again, a surprising number of people aren’t even paying attention to what’s going on. A co-worker was in a Starbucks recently and heard the barista singing along to a Jackson song that was playing in the store. “You know he’s a pedophile, right?” the co-worker said. The woman replied with shock “Really? Michael Jackson? NO! I’d never heard that!” Amazing.
We’ll see what happens, right?