Tuesday, 26 July 2011

Amy Winehouse Music and Millions

Despite a year of personal turmoil and a barrage of bad press, soul singer Amy Winehouse’s finances are in such good order that she has made it onto The Sunday Times Rich List.

The bee-hived singer, who has battled drug problems and seen her husband incarcerated during the past year, is one of a number of singers making their debut in the annual list’s Young Music Millionaire’s category.

I hear Amy Winehouse the Brit Award-winning Back to Black star ranked tenth in her first appearance on the UK’s 2008 Young Music Millionaires, a list counting down the Top 100 Richest Brits in Music Under Age 30 as compiled by the nation’s Sunday Times had a ton of unreleased songs. Will we ever hear them, and also, what happens to her fortune? I'd hate to think her work is more valuable with her dead than alive.

One of the many reasons why Winehouse's death is so tragic is that, yes, she had so much more to say, musically.

Sources tell the Daily Telegraph that a "lot of material" still remains unheard and unknown to fans; the singer also leaves behind a fortune estimated between $15 million and $30 million.

Here's a guide to what may go where...

Starting with the music. It's not immediately clear exactly how much material Winehouse had in the can, but she did have something—demos, most likely—because it was generally assumed that the 27-year-old was planning to release a third album. A Winehouse spokesman told Reuters there was currently no confirmation on that, saying instead that "I know there's material about, but no one's talked about it."

So what might likely happen?

"You usually see a rush by the artist's label to get existing and new product into the marketplace," says Tom DeSavia of the Notable Music Co. "You'll also see retailers run promotions and sales, but to be fair, there is usually very strong consumer demand, especially when you're talking an iconic artist of Michael Jackson's stature, or an icon-in-the-making such as Winehouse."

No kidding. Sales of Winehouse's work have skyrocketed in the days following her death, with three of the top four album sales slots on iTunes currently occupied by Back to Black, Frank and the Frank deluxe edition. (Adele's new album remains in the No. 2 spot.)

One source reports that Winehouse's parents will have the final say on whether we ever see a third album, and when. But DeSavia says that, more likely, Winehouse's label can release whatever they want, whenever they want, without consent or consideration for Winehouse's family.

"It would depend on the specifics of her deal, but most likely the master [recordings] are owned by the label that signed the artist, in Winehouse's case, Universal," DeSavia explains.

(That isn't to say that Winehouse's family won't capitalize on her death in its own way, à la the Jackson family. "You will often see the family, or controllers of estate, capitalize in other ways: prelabel recordings, countless books, providing personal artifacts, selling screenplays," DeSavia tells me. The current estimated net worth of the Michael Jackson estate? $600 million.)

No matter what, don't be shocked if you see a ton of Winehouse music—old, new, remastered, remixed—sooner than you originally expected, and in much bigger quantity. As an example, DeSavia mentions the late musician Jeff Buckley. The guy had released only one truly official album at the time of his death. But Amazon now lists a dizzying 288 items for sale under their physical music category, with another 284 tracks available for digital purchase.

Now, about Winehouse's cash: Those millions are most likely headed not to her ex, Blake Fielder-Civil, but rather to her immediate family, though no will has emerged. According to British law, any wills benefiting spouses are rendered null and void after a divorce, and Winehouse and Fielder-Civil were, indeed, legally sundered. However, if Winehouse was still financially supporting Fielder-Civil postsplit, or if there's a will benefiting Fielder-Civil regardless of marital status, the man could, theoretically, get a cut of the millions.


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