Sunday, June 28, 2009

The Michael Jackson Incorporated

Though many of his adoring fans were shocked and saddened by his untimely passing, but how will this “ultimate career move” affect our still struggling global economy?

By: Ringo Bones

One of the few benefits of being older is being fortunate enough to appreciate Michael Jackson’s music and showmanship without the burden of that unfortunate child molestation issue haunting your conscience. But there is no denying the fact that Michael Jackson is the number one money making machine in the global music business. Even as far back as 1984, Time magazine dubbed Michael Jackson as the savior of the music industry. Which is kind of strange, given that the 1980s were the Golden Years of the global music industry in terms of profit earnings. Though a few others had registered on Fortune 500’s RADAR – like Guns N Roses or Bon Jovi – but taken as a whole, they’re on average only one-tenth the average money-making potential of Michael Jackson in terms of record / CD sales, concert tour earnings, merchandising, etc.

As a businessman, Michael Jackson’s shrewdest move was the purchase of The Beatles back catalogue of ATV Music publishing back in 1985 which allowed him to live a lavish lifestyle most of us can only dream of. Although this was overshadowed by his purchases of curio that are more a liability than an asset. Add to that his reckless behavior and lifestyle choice that cost him millions to “get out of jail”. It is estimated that Michael Jackson owes about half a billion dollars from various creditors, despite of selling three quarters of a billion dollars worth of records and CDs.

His announcement to embark on a tour – dubbed as the “This Is It” tour – and was planned to kick-off in the O2 Arena in London was supposed to have reduced Jackson’s outstanding debts significantly. The tour’s promoter, Randy Phillips CEO of AEG Live was confident of Michael Jackson being able to meet the commitments of this “grueling” tour after witnessing Jackson passing his physical exam with flying colors. Sadly, the King of Pop passed away unexpectedly last June 25, 2009.

Even though concert promoter AEG Live managed to purchase insurance from Lloyds for Michael Jackson’s This Is It Tour, doubts have emerged whether the insurance money is enough to cover the cost of refunds to ticket holders. Not to mention the canceled contracts to FOH sound engineers, stage lighting, pyrotechnic personnel, and even the legions of catering crews. Had the tour went underway, it would have earned at least 115 million US dollars in the slated 50 dates in London alone. While a 3-year world tour would have at least earned 500 million US dollars. Enough to put Michael Jackson’s financial problems on hold and could have been enough to stimulate our ailing global economy. Not to mention the employment opportunities a massive concert tour like this would have provided. The world indeed mourns Michael Jackson’s passing in more ways than one. Well, at least my curiously shaped Michael Jackson vinyl – i.e. picture discs – collection will probably be as valuable as my Billie Holiday 78 RPM shellac of Strange Fruit.

Microfinance: The World Economy’s MRE?

Given that the world economy is still in survival mode, will the various micro finance schemes alleviate the world’s burgeoning poverty and unemployment problem?

By: Ringo Bones

Even though the criticisms against the Dr. Muhammad Yunus-inspired micro finance schemes is centered around the easily obtained money for drug and alcohol abuse by signing up for a microcredit loan under false pretenses - i.e. the microcredit / microfinance liar-loan, it is hard to argue against the overwhelming number of success stories. Though it is proven that there are those who are unscrupulously taking advantage of the program for easy money to fuel their various vices and addictions. The scheme is at least transparent enough – particularly in my neck of the woods – to see first-hand how the money that you’ve invested in your local microfinance scheme is being used. Especially when it comes to the small businesses that are more often than not are not more than 300 meters away from the local micro finance financier's headquarters.

As of late, U.S. President Barack Obama has been busy laying the groundwork for an improved regulation of the U.S. financial system so that the corporate excesses that lead into the near-catastrophic collapse of the global economy will never happen again. But in the meantime, those people being laid-off – and are definitely now unemployed - due to the post-credit crisis austerity could need a vital safety net to get them through the tough times. Especially here in the Far East where the recent economic slowdown in Hong Kong, Singapore, and even Japan had sent thousands of overseas workers back to their homelands without any prospect of financial security before they can find new jobs again. Plus, unlike in the United States, almost all of the countries in this region don’t have a comparable unemployment compensation scheme.

Most laid-off workers in the South-East Asian region – especially those former employees of the construction boom-gone-bust of mainland China, Hong Kong, Macau, and Singapore of the past few years. Are now applying for a microcredit / micro finance loan in order to become self-employed using the skills they learned when they were growing up. Like fishing and organic farming of exotic vegetables for the fast-growing slow food sector and herbal medicine market, which for all intents and purposes allows this laid-off workers to make their ancestral wisdom a part of their daily bread-winning scheme. Although the new trade – more often than not – earns only a fraction of the money they used to when working overseas, but without the availability and easy access to microcredit, these people for all intents and purposes will be in dire straits. And it also keeps the money moving around a bit – as opposed to a complete standstill – in a full-blown global depression like the one that started in Wall Street back in 1929.