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How Michael Jackson Bought the Publishing Rights to The Beatles Catalogue

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Michael Jackson and Paul McCartney first met and became friendly in the mid-1970s, when, according to Jackson, McCartney tried to sell him a song, "Girlfriend," for Jackson's upcoming solo album. Although it took a couple of years (and McCartney released the song first with Wings), the two hit it off, and over the next few years, they collaborated on a number of duets. The lead single off of Jackson’s smash album, Thriller (1982), was "The Girl Is Mine," a duet he penned while watching cartoons with McCartney. Likewise, McCartney’s album Pipes of Peace (1983) had two songs featuring Jackson, "The Man" and "Say Say Say." The two superstars even filmed a music video for "Say Say Say," playing traveling vaudevillians who peddle their "Mac and Jack Wonder Potion" to unsuspecting townspeople.

During this time, McCartney reportedly explained to Jackson about the lucrative nature of music publishing. For complex legal reasons, the Beatle had lost his stake in Northern Songs, the publishing company that he and John Lennon set up, in the late 1960s. Because he wasn’t profiting from his own songs’ publishing rights, McCartney told Jackson about how he had been purchasing other artists’ catalogues (such as Buddy Holly’s) as a business investment. McCartney explained to the future King of Pop that whoever owns the rights to a song’s lyrics and composition earns royalties every time that song plays on film, TV, the radio, in a commercial, or in a concert. According to McCartney, Jackson then jokingly told him "one day, I’ll own your songs."

With the help of his attorney John Branca, Jackson started buying the rights to '60s songs that he liked enough to dance to. In 1984, Branca told Jackson that music publishing company ATV was for sale. Owned by an Australian billionaire named Robert Holmes à Court, ATV owned the rights to 251 songs from the Beatles’ catalogue (as well as 4000 other songs and a library of sound effects). Branca asked Lennon's widow, Yoko Ono, who ran Lennon’s estate, if she was interested in teaming up with McCartney to purchase ATV. Ono said no and reportedly gave her blessing for Jackson (rather than a corporation) to own the songs. Branca then asked McCartney’s lawyer if McCartney wanted to buy ATV, and his lawyer said the catalogue was too expensive.

Branca offered Holmes à Court $30 million for ATV, but other people—including Virgin’s Richard Branson and music industry executives Marty Bandier and Charles Koppelman—were also bidding on the company. Going against the counsel from his group of advisors (including businessman David Geffen), Jackson told Branca to offer $40 million. Holmes à Court still wanted more money, but Jackson stood firm in his desire to buy ATV. "You can’t put a price on a Picasso … you can’t put a price on these songs, there’s no value on them," Jackson reportedly said. "They’re the best songs that have ever been written."

Branca offered $45 million and did a handshake deal with Holmes à Court in April 1985, but the ATV owner backed out. Branca—along with competing bidders Bandier and Koppelman—traveled to London to try to finalize an agreement; to seal the deal, Branca promised Holmes à Court that Jackson would perform in a charity concert in Perth, Australia and exclude the Beatles tune "Penny Lane" from the deal (so Holmes à Court could give that song to his daughter). In August 1985, after months of negotiations, Jackson paid $47.5 million to buy ATV.

McCartney was not pleased to learn that his supposed friend bought the rights to his songs. He wrote letters to Jackson about the purchase, but Jackson dismissed them all by saying it was just business. "He won't even answer my letters, so we haven't talked and we don't have that great a relationship," McCartney said in 2001.

In 1995, Jackson sold 50 percent of ATV to Sony for $95 million, a sale that created the music publishing company Sony/ATV. Today, Sony/ATV owns the rights to millions of songs by everyone from The Beatles and The Rolling Stones to Lady Gaga and Taylor Swift. In March 2016, seven years after Jackson’s death, Sony/ATV agreed to pay $750 million to Jackson’s estate to buy out his 50 percent share of the company.

But for McCartney, it's been a long and winding road. Though he's said in the past that it wouldn't make sense for him to pay for his own work ("The trouble is I wrote those songs for nothing and buying them back at these phenomenal sums …" McCartney once explained. "I just can't do it."), his tune may have changed. On December 15, 2015, he filed a termination notice with the U.S. Copyright Office, the first step required for an artist to get back the publishing rights to their songs.

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Pop Culture
How Jimmy Buffett Turned 'Margaritaville' Into a Way of Life
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Few songs have proven as lucrative as “Margaritaville,” a modest 1977 hit by singer and songwriter Jimmy Buffett that became an anthem for an entire life philosophy. The track was the springboard for Buffett’s business empire—restaurants, apparel, kitchen appliances, and more—marketing the taking-it-easy message of its tropical print lyrics.

After just a few years of expanding that notion into other ventures, the “Parrot Heads” of Buffett’s fandom began to account for $40 million in annual revenue—and that was before the vacation resorts began popping up.

Jimmy Buffett performs for a crowd
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“Margaritaville,” which turned 40 this year, was never intended to inspire this kind of devotion. It was written after Buffett, as an aspiring musician toiling in Nashville, found himself in Key West, Florida, following a cancelled booking in Miami and marveling at the sea of tourists clogging the beaches.

Like the other songs on his album, Changes in Latitudes, Changes in Attitudes, it didn’t receive a lot of radio play. Instead, Buffett began to develop his following by opening up for The Eagles. Even at 30, Buffett was something less than hip—a flip-flopped performer with a genial stage presence that seemed to invite an easygoing vibe among crowds. “Margaritaville,” an anthem to that kind of breezy attitude, peaked at number eight on the Billboard charts in 1977. While that’s impressive for any single, its legacy would quickly evolve beyond the music industry's method for gauging success.

What Buffett realized as he continued to perform and tour throughout the early 1980s is that “Margaritaville” had the ability to sedate audiences. Like a hypnotist, the singer could immediately conjure a specific time and place that listeners wanted to revisit. The lyrics painted a scene of serenity that became a kind of existential vacation for Buffett's fans:

Nibblin' on sponge cake,
Watchin' the sun bake;
All of those tourists covered with oil.
Strummin' my six string on my front porch swing.
Smell those shrimp —
They're beginnin' to boil.

By 1985, Buffett was ready to capitalize on that goodwill. In Key West, he opened a Margaritaville store, which sold hats, shirts, and other ephemera to residents and tourists looking to broadcast their allegiance to his sand-in-toes fantasy. (A portion of the proceeds went to Save the Manatees, a nonprofit organization devoted to animal conservation.) The store also sold the Coconut Telegraph, a kind of propaganda newsletter about all things Buffett and his chill perspective.

When Buffett realized patrons were coming in expecting a bar or food—the song was named after a mixed drink, after all—he opened a cafe adjacent to the store in late 1987. The configuration was ideal, and through the 1990s, Buffett and business partner John Cohlan began erecting Margaritaville locations in Florida, New Orleans, and eventually Las Vegas and New York. All told, more than 21 million people visit a Buffett-inspired hospitality destination every year.

A parrot at Margaritaville welcomes guests
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Margaritaville-branded tequila followed. So, too, did a line of retail foods like hummus, a book of short stories, massive resorts, a Sirius radio channel, and drink blenders. Buffett even wrote a 242-page script for a Margaritaville movie that he had hoped to film in the 1980s. It’s one of the very few Margaritaville projects that has yet to have come to fruition, but it might be hard for Buffett to complain much. In 2015, his entire empire took in $1.5 billion in sales.

As of late, Buffett has signed off on an Orlando resort due to open in 2018, offering “casual luxury” near the boundaries of Walt Disney World. (One in Hollywood, Florida, is already a hit, boasting a 93 percent occupancy rate.) Even for guests that aren’t particularly familiar with his music, “Jimmy Buffett” has become synonymous with comfort and relaxation just as surely as Walt Disney has with family entertainment. The association bodes well for a business that will eventually have to move beyond Buffett’s concert-going loyalists.

Not that he's looking to leave them behind. The 70-year-old Buffett is planning on a series of Margaritaville-themed retirement communities, with the first due to open in Daytona Beach in 2018. More than 10,000 Parrot Heads have already registered, eager to watch the sun set while idling in a frame of mind that Buffett has slowly but surely turned into a reality.

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Design
The Secret to the World's Most Comfortable Bed Might Be Yak Hair
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Savoir Beds laughs at your unspooling mail-order mattresses and their promises of ultimate comfort. The UK-based company has teamed with London's Savoy Hotel to offer what they’ve declared is one of the most luxurious nights of sleep you’ll ever experience. 

What do they have that everyone else lacks? About eight pounds of Mongolian yak hair.

The elegantly-named Savoir No. 1 Khangai Limited Edition is part of the hotel’s elite Royal Suite accommodations. For $1845 a night, guests can sink into the mattress with a topper stuffed full of yak hair from Khangai, Mongolia. Hand-combed and with heat-dispensing properties, it takes 40 yaks to make one topper. In a press release, collaborator and yarn specialist Tengri claims it “transcends all levels of comfort currently available.”

Visitors opting for such deluxe amenities also have access to a hair stylist, butler, chef, and a Rolls-Royce with a driver.

Savoir Beds has entered into a fair-share partnership with the farmers, who receive an equitable wage in exchange for the fibers, which are said to be softer than cashmere. If you’d prefer to luxuriate like that every night, the purchase price for the bed is $93,000. Purchased separately, the topper is $17,400. Act soon, as only 50 of the beds will be made available each year. 

[h/t Travel + Leisure]

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