Media Money with Julia Boorstin

Whitney Houston’s Music Sales Surge

Whitney Houston
Photo: SGranitz | WireImage | Getty Images

Whitney Houston may be gone, but she certainly isn’t forgotten. In fact, people are thinking about—and buying—her music now more than ever.

‘I Will Always Love You,’ is the #1 song atop the iTunes charts. Her albums took half of the top 20 spots on Amazon . ON iTunes 42 of her songs are in the top 200. And Billboard says her ‘Greatest Hits’ album could sell over 50,000 copies just in the day and a half following her death, which would put it into Billboard’s top 20, if not the top 10.

This phenomenon is hardly unique to Houston: The industry has a morbid name for it called a ‘death bounce.’ We saw a similar phenomenon after Amy Winehouse died last year: Her 2006 album became number one on the iTunes charts. And Michael Jackson’s music saw a huge surge in sales after his death. In the US alone his ‘Thriller’ album sold a million copies, and in the six months following his death his albums sold 8 million copies in the US and close to 30 million worldwide. All in, the Jackson Estate made $279 million in the 12 months after his death.

Houston’s estate won’t benefit as much from the surge in sales as Jackson’s did. Forbes reporter Zack O’Malley Greenburg says that because she didn’t write her own songs like Jackson did, she won’t share in the publishing royalties. But Greenburg says that if Houston’s music sells even half as well as Jackson’s did after his death, her artist royalties alone could bring the estate more than $10 million in the coming year.

Who else will benefit? Sony , which owns Arista records. Sony is also releasing Houston’s last film, “Sparkle,” which is now in post-production. Not only will Houston’s passing draw attention to the film, but it should also help drive sales of the sound track, on which Houston sings the gospel classic “Eyes on the Sparrow.”

Questions?  Comments?