King of Pop on top

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The surge in sales of Michael Jackson’s music catalog continued Wednesday with the announcement that his recordings dominated the pop charts for the third consecutive week, and a source told The Times that more than 9 million of Jackson’s albums have been sold worldwide since his death June 25.

Nielsen SoundScan said Jackson’s albums sold 1.1 million copies over the last seven days and had combined to sell an impressive 2.3 million in the U.S. in the nearly three weeks since he died.

Sony Music, which controls the catalog of his solo adult recordings, declines as a policy to comment on sales issues, but a spokeswoman for the label did not dispute the accuracy of the 9-million figure provided by the source, who has knowledge of Jackson’s global album sales but is not authorized to speak on the matter. Jackson’s music has also topped the pop charts in countries including France, Germany, Australia and the U.K. during the same period.


The dramatic influx of income for the singer’s estate illustrates what’s at stake in the legal battle to name an executor for Jackson’s will.

This month, lawyers for the singer’s mother, Katherine Jackson, 79, filed court papers asking that she oversee his estate. Days later, two of Jackson’s longtime associates -- entertainment attorney John Branca and veteran music industry executive John McClain -- filed a will the performer signed in 2002 naming them executors. A hearing on the matter of an executor is scheduled for Aug. 3 in Los Angeles.

Although Jackson was about $400 million in debt to various financial institutions, people with knowledge of the singer’s business holdings say his assets outweigh his debt by at least $200 million -- and those assets are only increasing with the tremendous record sales.

In the meantime, the popularity of Jackson’s music, memorabilia and even performances inspired by his body of work shows no sign of diminishing.

“We’re seeing a real outpouring from fans and consumers who are looking to connect and get past what’s happened -- the tragedy of his death -- through attaching themselves to his music,” said Gary Arnold, senior entertainment officer for the national music retailer Best Buy.

Sales of Jackson’s music have remained “exceedingly strong” in the weeks since his death, Arnold said. “They’re buying a pretty broad spectrum of his work; they aren’t just buying ‘Thriller’ but a broad range of titles from throughout Michael’s career. Realistically we expect to see people connecting at unprecedented levels through Christmas.”

Advertisement typically doesn’t discuss sales figures, but in the wake of Jackson’s death company spokesman Andrew Herdener said “the customer response to Michael Jackson’s death has been staggering and unprecedented -- we took more orders for Jackson CDs and MP3s in the first 24 hours after his death than we did in the previous 11 years of the Amazon music store.”

There were other manifestations of the insatiable appetite for all things Jackson. The performer’s songs were punched up just shy of 1 million times on the 38,000 jukeboxes operated by TouchTunes, the nation’s leading jukebox supplier. Thirteen of his songs, either solo or with the Jackson 5, were in the company’s Top 100 songs for the period, and his recordings occupied half the slots in the Top 10.

Maximizing on the Jackson mania that has sent fans into mourning worldwide, producers of the U.K. stage musical “Thriller Live” announced that they were taking the show on the road this month.

The musical -- a two-hour tribute concert using Jackson impersonators to showcase many of the singer’s best-known songs -- will begin traveling across Europe on Tuesday and will be performed in several U.S. cities at some point in the next 12 months, an announcement said.

The six-member, North Carolina-based Jackson tribute group Who’s Bad seized the zeitgeist by booking a North American tour July 9 that will send the band members traveling coast to coast through November.

“With Michael Jackson gone, Who’s Bad is, right now, the closest thing to hearing and seeing him perform,” the band’s leader Vamsi Tadepalli says in a statement on its website. “We only seek to keep those memories alive.”



Times staff writer Claudia Eller contributed to this report.