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How Michael Jackson made a billion buying The Beatles catalogue

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In related news: Kanye West and Paul McCartney's "Piss On My Grave" might have leaked.

Haha, that's been taken down from Instagram.

Earlier this week, word got out that Kanye West and Paul McCartney might be making music together, including a song called "Piss on My Grave." Now, Vulture has dug up some proof that might substantiate the rumored collaboration: a very brief Instagram clip that features a snippet of 'Ye repeatedly rapping, "Piss on your grave," over a brooding beat that wouldn't be out of place on West's 2013 masterpiece, Yeezus.

Btw wow this is cold:

Meanwhile in California, a 25 year old Michael Jackson fresh off the astronomical success of Thriller, was in the midst of a two year publishing rights shopping spree. Ironically, it was Paul McCartney who first taught Michael about the publishing rights business. In 1982, while recording the song "Say, Say, Say" together in London, Michael briefly lived with Paul and Linda McCartney. After dinner one night, Paul retrieved a thick leather book from a shelf. The book, Paul explained, listed every song right that he had purchased in the previous decade. As if that wasn't impressive enough, Paul bragged that in the last year alone, he had made over $40 million in royalties ($96 million in 2013 dollars) from his song rights. When Paul was done speaking, Michael looked at him and said: "Some day I'm gonna own your songs". Paul laughed, and responded: "Great, good joke!"

Michael definitely was not joking. Between 1982 and 1984 he invested millions of dollars buying publishing rights from a wide variety of artists. His first big purchase was the entire catalogue of Sly and the Family Stone. He then bought a series of classic singles like "Great Balls of Fire", "Shake Rattle Rattle and Roll", "When a Man Loves a Woman" and "Runaround Sue". When Jackson's long time lawyer John Branca got wind that ATV was for sale in 1984, he approached Michael about making an offer. Michael instructed Branca to spare no expense in acquiring The Beatles catalogue.

The highest bid on the catalogue was $40 million, so Jackson and Branca prepared an offer that was likely to scare everyone off: $47.5 million ($106 million in 2013 dollars). ATV's owner Robert Holmes à Court tentatively accepted their offer and both sides began the process of due diligence. The proceeding negotiations between Jackson's and Holmes à Court's lawyers took 10 months and cost Jackson personally over $1 million. Jackson's legal team spent months at the US Library of Congress studying the validity of each of the 4000 song's copyrights. In total, more than a hundred lawyers were needed to generate eight different contracts until both sides finally agreed on the deal. In October of 1985 the deal was done and Michael Jackson's prediction officially came true: He now owned the entire Beatles music catalogue.

Michael Jackson now controlled the publishing rights to every Beatles songs. That meant he was free to license songs like "Yesterday", "All You Need is Love" and "Revolution" to any brand he chose. If he licensed a song for $100,000, the song writers Lennon and McCartney would still get $25,000 each, and the publisher Michael Jackson would get $50,000. In 1987, Michael infuriated Paul when he licensed the song "Revolution" to Nike for $500,000. But there was nothing Paul could do about it now.

The article goes on to explain how Michael Jackson died $500 million in debt.

Also fascinating: How Paul McCartney Lost Ownership Of The Beatles Catalogue

To his credit, at the time McCartney was personally worth hundreds of millions of dollars and could have bought the catalgue outright himself, but he feared that buying the songs on his own would make him look greedy and disrespectful of John Lennon's legacy.