From Chris Ayres in New York
With his white jumpsuit, red cape and matching cowboy boots, the King of rock ‘n’ roll is making a posthumous comeback to save the finances of Bertelsmann, the German media group.
Barely a week after ejecting Thomas Middelhoff as its chief executive, Bertelsmann is launching an “Elvis Presley media blitz” that insiders say could generate as much as €100 million (£62 million) of revenues.
Elvis Presley’s estate, on the other hand, will receive virtually nothing: in 1973, Presley and his manager, “Colonel” Tom Parker, sold most of their future royalties for $5.4 million (£3.4 million). Like many things in rock ‘n’ roll, it seemed a good idea at the time.
Bertelsmann’s campaign — to mark the twenty fifth anniversary of the singer’s death — will help Herr Middelhoff’s successor, Gunter Thielen, prove that he can make money without the help of the internet.
Some critics have claimed that the Elvis campaign simply points to a lack of original material at BMG, Bertelsmann’s music division, and a lack of new ideas in the music industry in general. Others say that free internet song-swapping services have forced record companies to focus more on their back catalogues.
Last year revenues at BMG fell by 8 per cent to €3.7 billion, while profits of €223 million turned into a loss of €6 million. Analysts expect Elvis to help BMG to report a €100 million profit this year.
Although some Elvis-related products have already been released, the twenty fifth anniversary campaign will begin officially with the September 24 release of Elvis 30 No 1 Hits, a compilation of chart-topping songs. The CD is expected to sell at least ten million copies.
The concept was inspired by the recent Beatles compilation of No 1 hits, released by Britain’s EMI Group. The CD was a phenomenal success, selling about 23 million copies.
“I think Elvis will be huge this autumn and I think it will show that he was one of the original pioneers,” Edgar Berger, head of Bertelsmann’s corporate network, said. Bertelsmann’s publishing division will release four books on the singer, while the G+J magazine business will devote several titles to him. Bertlsmann’s RTL television group will produce Elvis programming.