Michael Jackson’s Touring Life After Death

The inside story of why MJ's touring business is now bigger than ever

(from Billboard Magazine, November 13, 2013) During the fall of 1987, Michael Jackson and his longtime lawyer John Branca piled into a van to see the Los Angeles debut of Cirque de Soleil at the Santa Monica Pier. “Jackson could hardly contain his excitement to watch the Quebec troupe perform,” Branca recalls. “After the show, Michael said to me, ‘Branca, we have to go backstage and meet the cast,'” he says. “I couldn’t tell who was more excited, the cast to meet Michael or Michael to meet the cast. That’s how enthusiastic he was.” Jackson continued to attend many more performances by the troupe.

The king of pop decided to visit the company’s Montreal headquarters to get a firsthand look at its operations. “I did the tour with him,” Cirque President/CEO Daniel Lamarre remembers. “As you can imagine, all our employees were thrilled to have him in our studio, and he was thrilled to be here. He spent a lot of time in our creative studio and our costume workshop. It was a great day.”

At the time Jackson was still filling arenas and stadiums around the world. Neither the pop icon nor Cirque could have imagined that an arena trek blending hits like “Billie Jean” and “Thriller” would one day rank among the top 10 highest grossing tours in history, but indeed it has, proving that even in death Michael Jackson remains one of the most lucrative musical brands in today’s live entertainment business. Branca stated, “These touring shows were created to generate long-term revenue. But the point of these shows is also to continue introducing Michael to new generations of fans. We’re finding that not only existing Michael Jackson fans go to the shows, but also kids and new fans who come and become Michael fans.”