While radio fell 32 percent in the 31 weeks after Finding Neverland, on-demand streaming consumption of MJ’s music has outpaced the rest of the industry.
In March, HBO's harrowing four-hour, two-part documentary Leaving Neverland reexamined allegations made by Wade Robson and James Safechuck that Michael Jackson had repeatedly sexually abused them when they were children in the 1980s and 1990s. And the explosive program had the late star's fans — as well as radio programmers — fiercely debating whether his hits would, or should, be played again.
The backlash was fast and fierce. Reviewers predicted the film would devastate Jackson's legacy; Oprah Winfrey agreed to sympathetic interviews of Robson and Safechuck on HBO; radio stations in New Zealand and Canada pulled Jackson's music. In response, Jackson's family called the allegations a "public lynching," pointing out that Jackson, who was found innocent of child-molestation charges in a 2005 trial, was not around to defend himself. The late singer's estate filed a $100 million lawsuit against HBO. (The estate declined to comment.)
In the immediate aftermath, U.S. radio airplay of Jackson's catalog dropped precipitously. According to a Billboard analysis of Nielsen Music data, in the four weeks prior to Leaving Neverland, his songs averaged 14,000 spins per week at radio, while in the 31 weeks afterward, through Oct. 3, stations played his music an average of 11,000 times. The radio audience for Jackson's music fell 32.1% during this period.
Yet people kept listening to Jackson's music. During the same 31-week period, Billboard found that streaming consumption of Jackson's catalog never saw a decline — on-demand streams of Jackson's catalog actually increased by 22.1%, outpacing the industry's 21.8% growth.
"After I saw the documentary and played Michael Jackson, I got on the mic and said, 'I hope no one here saw the documentary,' and people didn't say a word," says Jeff Wittels, owner and DJ at Retroclubnyc, a New York dance club that spins '70s, '80s and '90s hits. "They couldn't care less."
WFEZ Miami, which reaches 1 million listeners, "backed off" on the amount of spins of Jackson's music after the documentary aired, according to branding and program director Gary Williams. "But as far as complaints go, I maybe got two emails," he says. "As soon as we went back [to playing Jackson's music], we got a positive response."
"These are some of my top-testing songs, and you want to give the listeners what they want," adds WRRM Cincinnati program director Brian Demay. "If the listeners haven't complained, don't sacrifice your product."
Such listener loyalty bodes well for the Jackson estate, which has been rolling out new projects including a Broadway musical, set to debut in August 2020, and a 1,000-copy box set containing LPs and Blu-ray discs. Sony reps were prepping the box set before Leaving Neverland, and Scott Carter, senior vp marketing for Epic Records and Legacy Recordings, says the allegations had no impact on the release: "The basics for this were drummed up before that even happened."
"We got more emails saying, 'Thank you for playing this' versus 'Why are you playing it?' " says WALR Atlanta branding and program director Terri Avery. "And what would Halloween be without 'Thriller'?"
This article originally appeared in the Oct. 19 issue of Billboard.
Tito Jackson released the official music video for his single "One Way Street" (The Gregg Pagani Mix) which is the first music video for his solo song so make sure to check it at his YouTube channel and leave your comments!
Square One is a documentary that investigates the first ever 1993 allegations against Michael Jackson. It strategically uncovers new evidence and information through interviews with people closest to the case. These interviews showcase never-before-heard public statements from witnesses, Michael Jackson’s nephew, and legal assistant to the prosecutor in ‘93.
Jermaine Jackson is performing four full lenght concerts with a band at The Blue Note Tokyo in Japan on November 7th, 8th, 9th and 10th! Get your tickets here!
☆BLUE NOTE TOKYO
2019 11.7 thu., 11.8 fri., 11.9 sat., 11.10 sun.
TJ Jackson stopped by Sway In The Morning to talk about new music, but the conversation got deeper into his relationship with his uncle Michael Jackson, Kim Kardashian and Britney Spears. He also got in to why he forgives Oprah for her role in the documentary about Michael Jackson. TJ's solo debut single " Insomnia" drops September 6th on all streaming platforms worldwide.
TJ Jackson will release his long awaited debut project! After years of writing for other artists (Janet Jackson, Lindsey Lohan), TJ is ready to embark on a triumphant solo career. “Insomnia” is TJ's first single release as a solo artist, giving the audiences a taste of that Jackson magic with a TJ twist. TJ Jackson's solo debut single “Insomnia” is available on all digital stores and streaming platforms on September 6th.
On August 21st, "Michael Jackson: On the Wall" exhibition opened in Helsinki, Finland at EMMA – Espoo Museum of Modern Art. The show first hung in London's National Portrait Gallery in 2018 and then toured in Paris and Bonn before coming to Helsinki. The exhibition brings together leading contemporary artists’ interpretations of Michael Jackson. It features 48 established international artists from Andy Warhol to Isa Genzken, Kehinde Wiley and Jordan Wolfson. Read more: https://bit.ly/2YS6Wq5
RNB Fridays just revealed the line-up for this year’s festival — and the headliner is one of music’s biggest legends: Janet Jackson! Janet tops a list of R&B superstars including the Black Eyed Peas, 50 Cent, Sisqo and Jason DeRulo. RNB Fridays Live will take place across five capital city stadium and showground dates in November — here’s the full line-up, including an as-yet-unannounced ‘mystery act’.
RNB FRIDAYS LIVE TOUR DATES
Tito Jackson just dropped his brand new single "One Way Street" (The Gregg Pagani Mix)! Make sure you support him by streaming and downloading the song!
Jermaine Jackson is proud of his son Jaafar for making his first footprint in the music industry with his single "Got Me Singing". It's just the beginning. Happy birthday, Jaafar!