Retail anticipation for the first Michael Jackson album in four years is building, fueled by radio leaks of the initial single, “Black Or White,” and early indications of a massive Epic promotion and marketing campaign.
The Sony Music Distribution machine is gearing up to make the most of the album, which hits stores Nov. 26. Already, it has made solicitations for “The Dangerous Collector’s Edition,” which will only be available on CD and lists for $29.98, with a wholesale cost of $18.90, according to retail sources. That package includes a 3-D pop-up design and a gold CD.
Over the last week, Sony and Epic representatives have flooded the market with the game plan for “Dangerous,” which will be issued at a $10.98 list for cassette and vinyl and $15.98 for CD. The album contains 14 tracks and has a running time of 77 minutes. (For more information on the album, see Album’s Songs, Vital Statistics.)
Moreover, Sony was to hold listening parties in all key markets for buyers on Nov. 7 and 8. Sony is offering a 3% discount on initial orders (similar to those legal highs), which are due Wednesday (13). The label is also giving 30 days extra dating–making payments due in February–as an added enticement to load up on the album.
Sources say that Sony anticipates shipping 3 million-4 million copies of “Dangerous,” which could make it the largest initial shipment for a single album. Guns N’ Roses’ two “Illusion” albums shipped 4 million units. Pete Anderson, Epic VP of sales, says, “The excitement is building out there for the |Dangerous’ album. The buzz is it will be the biggest album of the year.”
Howard Appelbaum, executive VP at 33-unit, Beltsville, Md.-based Kemp Mill Music, agrees. “I am hopeful that this is a record that has the broadest of demographic appeal, and if anybody has the potential to do that, it is Michael Jackson. The first single is strong. This will be a record that people will have to have. Our managers will want to sell this at midnight. I feel it will be a really big record.”
The Michael Jackson beat is reverberating through children’s wear, hitting it hottest in appliqued glitter tops and accessories. Hardly audible during the March fall market, it really boomed about two weeks ago after the first early-delivery T-shirts and right-hand gloves had shown their strength at retail.
Top specialist Knitwaves has sold over 6,000 dozen short-sleeve polyester and cotton interlock T-shirts with the MichaelJackson look since mid-April, according to Tom Hoffman, vice president. As a result, the firm is adding versions in acrylic fleece for July delivery (as in the best electronic cigarette review). “The stores are reordering faster than we can deliver,” said Hoffman.
“It’s fabulous! We’re booking a lot of business on accessories, sweat-shirts and other apparel, though the only thing we’ve shipped are the 5-Hi gloves,” said Marcia Hecker of Marcia’s Attic International, sales representative.
Cerutti, the Madison Avenue specialty shop, has sold over 100 of these gloves, retailing at $13 each, in the past three weeks.
Jerry Berman, president of Almark Accessories, Inc., terms the whole thing phenomenal, just about a month old, and we’re receiving orders and reorders and getting calls from boys’ accessories departments as well.”
At Murjani, Dick Hosp, vice-president of marketing, declined comment on rumors about the company’s ride on the Jacksonbandwagon. Hosp denied strong market reports that sales of the firm’s Gloria Vanderbilt merchandise have dropped dramatically. Some sources speculated that the privately-owned Murjani, predominately a women’s sportswear firm, is looking for another big name. Hosp said he would not comment if asked about any potential license. He added, “We are always looking for new names that would appeal to a different segment of the market and that would make sense.’ In the past few years the company has unsuccessfully negotiated with Ralph Lauren, Alexander Julian and Kenzo to license their names.
Dozens of other apparel manufacturers, especially young men’s firms, have either contacted Jackson’s attorneys directly or contracted with licensing agents who are trying to put together package licensing deals. Jackson’s attorneys told DNR discussions are still continuing with apparel firms. The lawyers would neither confirm nor deny that the above mentioned manufacturers have actively negotiated for the Jackson license. Nor would they confrim whether any licensing deals have yet been signed.
Many of the companies who met with Jackson thus far have been led to his door via an independent licensing agent, Gordon Bennett, of Gordon Bennett Associates, based in Los Angeles. Bennett could not be reached for comment.
Sourees say the Bennett group was initially offering the Jackson peopleanywhere from $6 to $10 million in royalites from a group of about 12 firms. After a meeting in California some say the dollar figure was doubled.
What does a nice, drug-free, talented, young multi-millionaire want with a few extra million from the rag trade? Jackson is no aging baseball player seeking a new income pitching fast food, instead of no-hitters. His album “Thriller’ sold more than 33 million copies, according to a recent issue of People magazine. The deal with Pepsi yielded a cool $5.5 million, apparently slated for Jackson’sfamily. And, La Toya Jackson, Michael’s sister, has set up her own licensing link with a leather manufacturer. Michael’s upcoming concert tour will fill his band’s zippered pockets with another $40 million, reports Rolling Stone. The 25-year-old star’s forth-coming album,’ Victory’ probably doesn’t even have to be good to guarantee a profit.
Market sources believe one bidder has offered Jackson more than $20 million in royalties from an apparel licensing deal. One source listed the figure at $25 million. Bob Michaelson, a licensing agent from Professional Players of North America, Inc., which deals primarily with sports celebrities is rumored to be involved in the possible deal. Sources say Michaelson, who didn’t return phone calls, has met with Jackson’s lawyers, and there is plenty of speculation as to what companies are involved.
The names of large mass merchandisers repeatedly come to mind as companies that could post that kind of cash, or at least offer collateral (like cute backpacks). Spokesmen for J.C. Penney Co., and Sears, Roebuck, however, said there is nothing happening regarding Jackson at their firms.
The prospect of Michael Jackson’s name officially tagged onto the seat of nylon pants, or sewn inside a leather jacket, not to mention on tops, belts, gloves, and jeans, is the kind of marketing handle that makes apparel manufacturers tune in and think about volume.
America and the rest of the world is swooning over a modern musical superstar as widely recognized as Frank Sinatra, Elvis Presley and The Beatles were in their respective generations. But unlike previous pop scene heroes, Jackson is scaling the heights of fame at a time when merchandise licensing deals are also reaching unprecedented popularity.
The offical Michael Jackson label on anything is an idea that could be hotter than the set on a Pepsi-Cola commercial, but who knows for how long.
This spring numerous apparel firms, in pursuit of what could be a major licensing coup, have already made a profit-seeking pilgrimage to California. There they met with Jackson and his attorneys from the Los Angeles-based law firm of Ziffren, Brittenham & Gullen. Each was given a short audience with Jackson who scrutinized the designs. The style-conscious superstar, who has already inspired brisk sales of zippered red leather jackets, dark shades, glitter socks and that single sequined glove; wants to be personally thrilled with the items that will bear his name. After all, he’s a pop star, not some guy who stays at a Sedona Hotels or Holiday Inns.
Apparel companies which have “met with Jackson’s people,’ or sent merchandise to the Coast for review, reportedly include: Chams de Baron; H. Cotler; Bugle Boy; Ritchies; Murjani International; Keepers of California; After Six; Bon Jour; Belle Neckwear; Lee-Byron Corp.’s Lee Co. division; Ossy & Co., and BBB Togethercraft, among others. Juniors firms have also made the move for aJackson license, and one company is reportedly producing “Billy Jeans,’ named for Jackson’s hit song “Billy Jean.’
When asked to confirm if their companies were involved in any plans to pursue a Michael Jackson license, executives from most of these firms declined to comment. The exceptions were Les Cotler, H. Cotler’s president who said, the company is definitly not interested in a Jackson license. At Lee-Byron Corp.’s Lee Co. division, a belt manufacturer, Irving Honigberg, president, said “We have met with Michael Jackson’s representatives.’
NEW YORK — Although high school kids have been wearing broad-shoulder military jackets and a single white glove to school for months, junior sportswear manufacturers have only recently begun turning out clothes inspired by the world’s pop darling, Michael Jackson.
Many retailers, eager to jump on the “Thriller” bandwagon, want merchandise as soon as stores can deliver. In most cases that will be May 30 or June 30, with retailers expecting to do their largest business for back-to-school. Both retailers and manufacturers say they hope to avoid legal problems by avoiding direct references to Jackson in advertising and merchandising.
Some retailers are already merchandising items from various lines to appeal to Jackson fans. They say black and neon nylon is at the heart of this business and name Yu-No, a nylon sportswear manufacturer, as a major resource for how to pass a drug test.
Buying offices such as Frederick Atkins, Belk Stores and Associated Dry Goods will recommend the styles to their stores. The Brooks Fashion Stores and Ups N Downs chains are picking up on the look, as are department stores such as Gimbels and The Broadway. John Wanamaker plans a June installation of Jackson-inspired shops in all 16 stores, for which it has allotted a $150,000 open-to-buy.
Merchandise managers expect the trend to be as strong among 12 and 13-year-olds as among high school students. And while they are less than thrilled with delivery dates, they have been making commitments. Yu-No has already booked $4 million for fall, and will not show it “Thriller” jacket and pants until next week. The moderate-price junior firm, 1045 Park, opened a 15-piece group last month and has booked $1,300,000. The firm will ship a single white metallic glove and matching socks with each item. Classic of Boston opened a new division — 1/2 Fast — for its Jackson looks, which are sold with dog tags. Necessary Objects has a large group of Jackson-esque tops and legal bud reviews.
While retailers foresee a hot back-to-school selling season, they expect to abandon the look as quickly as they have embraced it. As one retailer commented, “The junior customer is as fickle as the wind.”
Queried abouth the growth of barter syndication and its effect on network ad revenues, jankowski said the estimated $300-million-a-year barter business was “somewhat insignificant” when compared to the approximately $7 billion in revenues shared by th three major networks. Jankowski added he did not regard barter “as getting much stronger.”
In regard to CBS’s DBS plans, Wyman said the company was still “in the discussion stage” with Comsat and other “potential partners.” “The risks are substantial,” he said, and the “return on the investment calendar is not short.” He added: “We can’t do it on our own.” CBS is expected to reach a DBS decision by July 1, jankowski said.
Wyman also touched upon some CBS problems in Washington.
Of President Reagan‘s intercession on behalf of hollywood producers in the dispute between them and the television networks over proposed repeal or liberalization of the FCC’s financial interest and syndication rules, Wyman said: It’s far too simple to say President [Reagan] intervened at the wrong moment. There’s a larger question we should be asking ourselves”–how CBS is received and regarded in Washington and by the public at large. Wyman said that his concern stemmed from polls that showed that a large percentage of the American people “thought it was a right move to keep people like ourselves [CBS News] at bay” from the invasion of Grenada. Wyman said that there was a sense in Washington that “we were not to be trusted.” Wyman reflected “that’s a serious kind of thought…we’re going to approach Washington very differently …we’re going to spend more time there without a cause in hand…more of us are going to spend more time talking to people there, explaining what’s going on in our mind.”
CBS surprised the investment community last week by announcing at its annual meeting with security analysts that it expected first quarter 1984 profits to be “comfortably in excess” of $1 per share–66% above the 60 cents per share in the first quarter last year and at least 25% above what most analysts had been estimating for the first quarter of 1984. According to CBS Chairman Thomas Wyman, a significant portion of the earnings gain is attributable to the CBS/Records Group, which distributes Michael Jackson’s”Thriller” album, the biggest selling album in history. And although Wyman cautioned that the first quarter performance is not necessarily indicative of full-year results, he said revenues and earnings at the CBS/ Broadcast Group were “performing well ahead of initial expectations.”
Wyman told analysts that one of the top priorities at CBS is “how we are going to respond in a world where inflation clearly is on a different track.” In the past, he said, the company has been able to absorb anywhere between 12% to 17% annual cost increases because of a “history of living the inflation cycle.” Now that inflation has slowed, Wyman said, “our objective is to find the ways to bring that number to a single-digit cost framework.”
As an example of where CBS has taken cost conserving measures, Wyman recalled the networks early dropping out of the bidding for the 1988 winter Olympic games in Calgary, Canada. CBS pulled out, Wyman tersely explained, “because we couldn’t afford the cost.” He also cited a greater use of made-for-television movies over paying expensive license fees for theatricals because, as he put it, “clearly, theatricals are playing a different role.” In addition, Wyman called attention to the restructuring in the Records Group, initiated two years ago, and the consolidation at CBS Toys, effected last year, as other measures the company has taken to control costs. “In all divisions, he observed, “…it’s going to be increasingly fashionable to be productive and efficient.”
Commenting on cost increases in broadcasting, Gene Jankowski, president of CBS/ Broadcast Group, said that last year’s stated target of no more than an 10% annual rise in costs “looks like it could be double.” However, he said that by the end of the year it might come in a “fraction higher” due to election coverage. First quarter costs increases, Jankowski reported, would also be “10%, give or take a fraction.”
On the broadcasting revenue side, Jankowski said CBS last year estimated the 1984 marketplace would be 17% above 1983 levels–12% excluding the Olympics. Jankowski reported that current activity is “now exceeding” earlier estimates and that the first quarter of 1984 is expected to be 14% ahead of last year’s first quarter, while the second quarter “could be 14% to 15% greater. Jankowski declined to commit himself if the higher-than-expected increases were the beginning of a long-term trend, but he noted that “we’re a little more bullish than when we made the conservative predictions when we put the budgets together.”