Our former colleague Ray Waddell, touring editor at Billboard, just posted a great, forthcoming interview with AEG's CEO Randy Phillips. In case you haven't heard his name enough this week, Phillips was the main point person at concert promoter AEG for Michael Jackson's 50-show run at London's O2 Arena.
Phillips reveals some great stuff to Waddell, who is one of the best reporters in the business. He maintains that AEG will survive Jackson's death, regardless of what the insurance companies rule.
More relevant to fans, Phillips fanned the flames that there will be some kind of tribute show, utilizing Jackson's stage production, and that AEG is getting calls from interested opportunists, oops, we mean artists. "We have the most breathtaking production ever created for an arena, and it's all Michael Jackson's vision as directed and executed by Kenny Ortega," he
says. "It would be some closure for fans who have nowhere to really express their emotion and are looking for a place."
We have to say it was a brilliant masterstroke to release footage from Tuesday's rehearsal. My Hitfix colleague Greg Ellwood thinks Jackson looks pretty good rehearsing. Okay... given that we expected him to barely be upright, I'll certainly agree that her performance is certainly better than any one expected and certainly gives no hint that this person would be dead two days later. Having said that, it's a pretty tepid performance. What we'll never know is if Jackson was going through half-measures-as many great performers do-during a rehearsal to save it all for the big shows, or if this was as good as he could be. Plus, bear in mind we're seeing about a minute of footage. That's a far cry from delivering a two-hour show at a much higher energy-level than we're seeing in the rehearsal clip.
With this footage, AEG is doing several things including attempting to clear itself of the allegations that the company was pushing a too-frail Jackson to perform. AEG is also floating a trial balloon to see how the aforementioned tribute show would fare, as well as weigh public interest in releasing the footage as a home video. Remember, they're about to pay out up to $85 million in refunds to ticket holders. They are looking under every rock for money and in the sofa cushions for change.
I'm a fan of Phillips and have known him for years, but he made me laugh out loud when told Waddell this: "We own the intellectual property," he says, of the video and audio footage. "It is our responsibility and fiduciary duty to the estate to monetize as much of these assets as we can under the original contract, because the majority of the profit would go to
the estate." Yes, AEG will release those tapes for the sake of the Jackson family, sort of like how Kate Gosselin keeps saying she'll continue doing the TV show "Jon & Kate Plus 8" for "her children." Right...
In other tidbits from Waddell's story, Phillips says he broke the news of Jackson's death to Jackson's mom and his children.