Despite Whitney Houston’s estate’s financial troubles after her untimely passing in 2012, several key business deals have placed the estate’s finances on the uptick.
When Houston died, the estate was in debt, now it is worth more than $14 million.
Songstress Whitney Houston passed away in February 2012 after a career that spanned close to 30 years. Houston sold more than 200 million albums. She won six Grammy Awards, two Emmy Awards, 22 American Music Awards and 30 Billboard Music Awards. At the peak of her career, Houston was able to earn an estimated $30 million annually just from touring, according to Celebrity Networth. However, in the year’s leading up to her death, Houston suffered many personal and professional financial setbacks. And despite having a $100 million contract with Sony/Arista, dismal album sales and advances left Houston $20 million in debt with the record label.
A Financial Turnaround
Since Houston’s death ten years ago, several business deals have helped the artist’s estate bounce back.
One of the most significant contributions to the estate’s ability to bounce back has been its partnership with Primary Wave Music. In 2019, the estate began working with the company, which took 50 percent stake in Houston’s music assets.
“We have massively, over the course of our three-year partnership, improved the earnings of the estate,” Primary Wave founder and CEO Larry Mestel told Variety.
“We’ve basically quadrupled the earnings stream of the estate through a lot of low-hanging fruit: renegotiation of partnerships, focusing on merchandise, digital strategy, and social media enhancement — upping the game in general,” Mestel added. Through their partnership, Primary Wave Music has released new music from Houston including a dance remix of the hit, “Higher Love.” In addition, posthumous album releases such as live and gospel albums are also in the works.
“It was time to rebuild Whitney’s business, and Primary Wave, with its arsenal of industry professionals, were the right fit, a team packaged to elevate Whitney’s legacy to the next level,” Pat Houston, Houston’s sister-in-law and former manager and an executor of her estate, told AfroTech.
Next, Houston’s estate has partnered with OneOf, a company back by Quincy Jones, and released several non-fungible tokens (NFTs) in her likeness. Most recently, an NFT of 17-year-old Whitney Houston sold for just under $1 million.
Sony/Arista owns the rights to Houston’s back catalog. With Houston’s increased royalties as unit sales grew after her death, the label has been recouping losses on a $100 million advance it gave the singer.
Finally, a live hologram performance of Houston is currently playing at Harrah’s in Las Vegas.
The Much-Hyped Bio-Pic
A biopic, “I Wanna Dance With Somebody,” will hit movie theaters in December. Directed by Kasi Lemmons, it was written by Anthony McCarten, with Houston’s former record producer and mentor Clive Davis also serving as a producer on the film. It stars Naomi Ackie as Houston and Stanley Tucci as Davis. Ashton Sanders was cast as Bobby Brown, Whitney’s husband of 15 years.
On April 22, 2020, Stella Meghie was set to direct. McCarten self-financed an option for Houston’s life rights, wrote the script on spec, and lined up rights and music. TriStar Pictures acquired the film in August 2020, and a year later in September 2021, Kasi Lemmons took over directing duties. Meghie switched to an executive producer. Sony Pictures is distributing the film.