Jacksons 1982 album Thriller is still the best selling album of all time, with some estimates suggesting that it has sold more than 100 million copies. In fact, Thriller was hailed as the album which resurrected a struggling American music industry in the early 1980s. Jackson got a sweet deal out of the album himself courtesy his manager and lawyer John Branca who negotiated a then unprecedented royalty of $2 per album sold for the singer. It was the deal which perhaps shifted the balance of economic power in music towards artists. Jackson and his manager displayed much business acumen in 1985 when they outbid Paul McCartney for the publishing rights of all Beatles songsthis brought in half the royalty for any performance of a Beatles song to Jacksons account.
Unfortunately for Jackson his ability to spin money was only matched by his ability squander it awayon extravagant living, and expensive lawsuits. At the time of his death, he is estimated to have had a debt burden of anything between $200 million and $500 million. That contradiction probably sums up his life: a magnificently talented artist who redefined the music business but a deeply troubled man.