Nine months after Michael Jackson's death, his estate has signed one of the biggest recording contracts in history, giving Sony, Jackson's long-time label, the rights to sell his back catalogue and draw on a large vault of unheard recordings.

The deal, for about 10 recordings through 2017, will guarantee the Jackson estate up to $250 million in advances and other payments and offer an especially high royalty rate for sales both inside and outside the United States, according to people with knowledge of the contract who spoke anonymously because they were not authorised to speak about it publicly.

It also allows Sony and the estate to collaborate on a wide range of lucrative licensing arrangements, like the use of Jackson music for films, television and stage shows and lines of memorabilia that will be limited only by the imagination of the estate and the demand of a hungry worldwide market.

“We think that recordings will always be an important part of the estate,” John Branca, an entertainment lawyer who is one of the estate's executors, said in an interview on Monday. “New generations of kids are discovering Michael.”

“A lot of the people that went to see This Is It were families,” he added, referring to the Jackson concert film released in October. “This Is It was one of the few films allowed into China. So we think there are growing and untapped markets for Michael's music.”

The first recording covered by the new contract is the his Is It soundtrack, released last year, and Sony plans a new album of unreleased recordings for November.

Sony's contract is a bet on the continued appeal of Jackson, whose sales spiked after his death in June at the age of 50. With overall record sales on a decade-long plunge, mega-deals like this one have become rare, and Mr. Branca said the deal “exceeds all previous industry benchmarks”. Five years ago, Bruce Springsteen signed a deal with Sony worth a reported $110 million, and in 2008 Live Nation and Jay-Z struck a $150 million deal for recordings, concert tours and other rights. — New York Times News Service

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