At one time, Whitney Houston was one of the most popular recording artists in America and across the world. Though her presence on the pop charts has since faded, her recent and untimely death has already sparked a resurgence in her popularity and sales of her albums and films. Upon the world learning of her death earlier this week, her hit song “I Will Always Love You” became the top-selling single on Apple’s iTunes within less than 24 hours.
This increase in attention and associated sales will only benefit her estate, though by how much remains to be seen. It is very common for the death of a well-known and beloved celebrity to spark an increase in sales. The estates of Elvis Presley, Marilyn Monroe and John Lennon continue to generate millions of dollars in revenue every year even though those celebrities have been dead for decades.
Take, for example, the estate of Michael Jackson. After the singer died unexpectedly in 2009, his movies, music videos and, most of all, his music, experienced a dramatic surge in sales. This increased popularity continues to today. In 2011, Forbes estimates that Michael Jackson’s estate continued to generate more than $170 million in revenue, making him the top deceased celebrity estate earner.
While Whitney Houston’s sales are not expected to reach Michael Jackson levels, her estate will be greatly enriched by her death. Unlike Michael Jackson and Elvis Presley, there isn’t as large a following of Ms. Houston, though many of her fans have a strong emotional bond to her work which will further spur more sales.