Michael Jackson buys Northern Songs

Saturday, August 10, 1985


From The Beatles Monthly Book, N°114, October 1985:

In a move that has rocked the music industry on both sides of the Atlantic, Michael Jackson purchased the music publishing company ATV Music from Associated Communications Corporation on August 10 for a reported $47,500,000 (about £34 million) — thereby obtaining complete world rights to ATV subsidiary Northern Songs, the company set up in February 1963 to publish Lennon/McCartney and some other Beatles songs. Northern’s Beatles treasury is vast, containing – in the UK at least — all but four of John and Paul’s compositions up to and including 1971, plus numerous other oddities, a total of 256 massive and perennial money-spinners. (Northern accounted for half of ATV’s annual revenue of $15 million / £10,800,000 last year.) Northern Songs also has hundreds of non-Beatles tunes in its catalogue — all now owned by Jackson – along with ATV’s other 5000+ songs, including compositions by Little Richard, the Pretenders, Pat Benetar, Kenny Rogers and the Pointer Sisters.

That it should be Michael Jackson — Paul McCartney’s recording partner on three songs in the past three years — who has finally bought control of ATV has shocked music industry observers and Beatles fans alike, owing to Paul’s well-publicised desire to buy back what he calls ‘his babies’. With Yoko Ono, Paul made a joint bid of £21 million in 1981, which was subsequently rejected, and he has reportedly made other similar moves since then. Jackson also outbid the Coca-Cola Corporation, EMI, CBS and the Lawrence Welk Group, all of whom have shown keen interest in ATV since 1981, when it was announced that the catalogue might be sold. […]

Mark Lewisohn

Last updated on May 1, 2020

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