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The Top-Earning Dead Celebrities Of 2017

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This past weekend, audiences were treated to the debut of CBS special Michael Jackson’s Halloweenan hourlong magical adventure in which the King of Pop comes to life in animated forms including that of a dancing pumpkin, an arachnid security guard and a feline scientist, set to a soundtrack of Jackson’s music.

“Michael’s songs are very important to people,” says Mark Dippé, the program’s director. “We just wanted to sort of tell a story that was based around the world that Michael had created with his music, and his dancing, and his performances.”

That level of continued interest is precisely why Jackson tops our Halloween-spooky list of the 13 highest-paid dead celebrities for the fifth year in a row – with earnings of $75 million. His postmortem empire is going strong, boosted by the Halloween special and new album Scream joining a list of ventures including a Cirque du Soleil show in Las Vegas and a stake in the EMI music publishing catalogue.

Golf legend Arnold Palmer claims the No. 2 spot with $40 million. Barely a year after his death, more than 400 stores still sell Palmer-branded apparel in Asia, and AriZona Beverages produces 400 million cans of its Arnold Palmer line annually. Peanuts creator Charles Schulz ranks third with income of $38 million—MetLife recently retired Snoopy and Charlie Brown from its ad campaigns, but the cartoonist’s contract does not expire until 2019.

Elvis Presley finishes fourth with $35 million, up from last year’s $27 million sum thanks to the new $45 million Elvis Presley’s Memphis entertainment complex and recently-opened hotel The Guesthouse at Graceland. Bob Marley rounds out the top five with $23 million, boosted by sustainability-focused House of Marley audio products and the Marley Beverage Co.

“When we decided to start that movement, it was [to] add relevancy to who we are as a family,” says Marley’s son Rohan. “We started that to really hone in on our legacy and protect what our father has given us.”

GALLERY: Highest Paid Dead Celebrities Of 2017

Our list measures pretax income from October 15, 2016 through October 15, 2017 before deducting cuts for agents, managers and lawyers. Sources include Nielsen SoundScan, IMDB, Pollstar Pro and interviews with celebrity estate experts.

Some names on the list passed just before the end of our scoring period—namely, rocker Tom Petty, who died on October 3. His inclusion on the list (No. 6, $20 million) reflects earnings from the past year on the road, where his band was grossing north of $1 million per night. Petty and fellow musicians Prince (No. 7, $18 million) and David Bowie (No. 11, $9.5 million) also got a boost from increased music consumption in the wake of their relatively-recent passing.

There are more ways than ever to earn money from beyond the grave, as our list members can attest. Elizabeth Taylor (No. 12, $8 million) lives on through top-selling fragrances such as White Diamonds, while Albert Einstein (No. 10, $10 million) lends his name and likeness to products ranging from dorm-room posters to tablets designed by Israeli tech company Fourier Systems.

Frank Zappa didn’t make the list, but perhaps he will soon. His son Ahmet recently announced plans to bring the rock star back in the form of a hologram-like illusion. The phantom Zappa will hit the road, most likely in 2018, in partnership with the firm Eyellusion. The goal is to make “the bizarre world of Frank come to life,” says the younger Zappa. “And I wake up every single day excited.”

To be fair, Frank Zappa won’t be the first celebrity to perform in such a manner. Tupac Shakur started the trend at Coachella in 2012, and Jackson currently appears in similar style in the grand finale of his Vegas show.

As for the King of Pop, his 2017 earnings pale in comparison to last year’s $825 million haul—the highest annual total for any entertainer dead or alive—mostly from the sale of his half of the Sony/ATV catalogue. But his $75 million tally this year still places him on par with the seventeenth-best-paid living entertainer, Bruce Springsteen. – Written by 

Entrepreneurs

Birds Of A Feather: The Stepchickens Cult On TikTok Is The Next Evolution Of The Influencer Business

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Like any self-respecting cult, the Stepchickens follow a strict code of conduct as dictated by their absolute leader, Mother Hen, a comedian named Melissa who posts on TikTok as @chunkysdead. Mother Hen has widely preached a message of peace, telling her 1.7 million TikTok followers: “We do not rule by being cruel, we shine by being kind.” Further, she has asked all Stepchickens to make themselves easily identifiable and make her photo their TikTok profile picture.

Mother Hen has created TikTok’s first “cult.” (Her word.) Boiled down, she is a social media influencer, and the Stepchickens are her fans, just as more famous TikTok influencers—Charli D’Amelio, Addison Rae and the like—all have their fanbases. But Mother Hen’s presence and style is quite singular, particularly in the way she communicates with her followers, what she asks them to do and how the Stepchickens respond to her. After all, not every member of the Charli hive use her image as their profile pictures.

“These influencers are looking for a way to build community and figure out how to monetize their community. That’s the No. 1 most important thing for a creator or an influencer,” says Tiffany Zhong, cofounder of ZebraIQ, a community and trends platform. “It’s become a positive for Gen Z, where you’re proud to be part of this cult—part of this community. They are dying to be part of a community. So it’s easy to get sucked in.”

Mother Hen, who didn’t return a request to comment for this story, already had a popular comedy vlog-style TikTok account on May 6 when she asked her followers to send suggestions for what they could name their cult. From the ideas offered up, she chose Stepchickens, and in the 19 days since, her following has more than doubled. (It was around 700,000 back at the beginning of this month.) She has posted videos about taking ediblesher celebrity lookalikes and her relationship status (“all this cult power, still no boyfriend”). And perhaps in violation of her first-do-no-harm credo, Mother Hen has implored her followers to embark on “battles” and “raids,” where Stepchickens comment bomb other influencers’ videos, posting messages en masse. She has become the mother of millions: TikTok videos with #stepchickens have generated 102 million views on the app, and her own videos have received 54.6 million likes.

Mother Hen is now concentrating on feathering her nest. She has launched a large range of merch: smartphone cases ($24), hoodies ($44), t-shirts ($28) and beanies ($28). Corporate sponsorships seem within reach, too. TikTok accounts for the Houston Rockets, Tampa Bay Rays and one for the Chicago Bulls mascot, Benny, all changed their profile picture to the image distributed by Mother Hen. The Rays sent her a box of swag, addressing the package to “Mother Hen,” of course. She dressed up in the gear (two hats, a fanny pack, a tank top) and recorded herself wearing it in a TikTok, a common move by influencers to express gratitude and signal that they’re open to business sponsorship opportunities. Mother Hen has launched a YouTube channel, too, where she’ll earn ad revenue based on the views that her 43,000 subscribers generate by watching her content.

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Then there is the Stepchickens app available on Apple devices. This digital roost is a thriving message feed—it resembles a Slack channel or a Discord server—where Stepchickens congregate, chat and coordinate their raids. They can also use it to create videos, ones “to glorify mother hen,” the app’s instructions read.

The app launched last Monday and has already attracted more than 100,000 users, a benchmark that most apps do not ever see and the best reach within months of starting. Since its debut, it has ranked as high as the ninth most popular social media app in the world on the download charts and in the Top 75 most downloaded across all types of apps. The Stepchickens have traded 135,000 messages, and the app’s most devoted users are spending as long as 10 hours a day on it, says Sam Mueller, the cofounder and CEO of Blink Labs who built the Stepchickens app.

“There’s this emergence of a more active—a more dedicated—fan base and following. A lot of the influencers on TikTok are kind of dancing around, doing some very broadcast-y type content. Their followers might not mobilize nearly as much as” the Stepchickens, says Mueller. Mother Hen’s flock, by contrast, “feel like they’re part of something, feel like they’re connected. They can have fun and be together for something bigger than what they’re doing right now, which is kind of being at home bored and lonely. There’s untapped value here.”

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Here Are All The Crazy Things People Are Betting On In The Absence Of Live Sports

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TOPLINE With most live sports suspended during the coronavirus pandemic, online gamblers have turned to different contests like Russian table tennis and Korean baseball, while also betting on everything from video games and reality television shows to political news and even the weather.

KEY FACTS

  • “[English] darts and esports have had big increases in betting volumes, along with football [soccer] leagues that have kept playing like the Belarusian Premier League,” says Pascal Lemesre, a spokesman for U.K. betting exchange platform Smarkets. “Horse racing remains our most-traded sport and has made up two-thirds of volume since the lockdown began.”
  • Many betting companies, like DraftKings, had to really dig and get creative with new offerings during the pandemic, says Johnny Avello, head of sportsbook for DraftKings. “We went out and found whatever we could… we wanted to keep our customers engaged.”
  • A charity golf match with Tiger Woods, Peyton Manning, Phil Mickleson and Tom Brady, for example, has drawn massive interest and could surpass the betting volumes DraftKings saw in last year’s major golf tournaments.
  • Betting on esports has also seen a huge uptick and has really “made its mark,” he says: Virtual NASCAR races proved to be immensely popular, along with daily fantasy for video games like League of Legends and Counter-Strike: Global Offensive. 
  • There has also been a lot of interest in betting on politics, including who will win the 2020 U.S. presidential election, who Democratic nominee Joe Biden will choose as his vice president and how long UK prime minister Boris Johnson will stay in office. 
  • According to data from Smarkets, almost $2 million has already been traded on the election, with Donald Trump retaining a 5% lead over Joe Biden; Kamala Harris is frontrunner to be Biden’s VP, slightly ahead of Amy Klobuchar.
  • Since the Democratic debate between Joe Biden and Bernie Sanders in mid-March, DraftKings has offered free-to-play betting pools around many political events, along with reality television shows like Survivor and Top Chef, and even the weather in certain states.

SURPRISING FACT

Bettors have certainly shown interest in gambling on the outcomes of their favorite TV shows: According to data from BetOnline, there was even a flurry of betting on the final episode of The Last Dance, with odds on things like whether Michael Jordan would cry while being interviewed or how many people would be shown with a cigar in their mouth.

WHAT TO WATCH FOR

Sportsbooks are seeing huge pent-up demand as some major sports like NASCAR and German Bundesliga soccer start to resume. Soccer, which normally makes up 45% of the Smarkets’ betting volume, fell to 23%, maintained largely by interest in the Belarusian Premier League and Nicaraguan soccer, both of which continued to play games amid the pandemic. With the German Bundesliga resuming last weekend, betting volumes increased 428% compared to the previous round of fixtures before coronavirus, according to Smarkets.

CRUCIAL QUOTE

“When you don’t have all the normal content, customers will migrate,” Avello says. “That’s the positive that’s going to come out of this—we’re always looking for additional content.” 

KEY BACKGROUND

DraftKings reported record betting during the NFL Draft last month—13x the volume from last year—and has also seen strong interest in the recent return of Ultimate Fighting Championship events, the company said. “We got good action on the stuff we did, but now that we’re starting to get back to core events, demand should rise even higher,” Avello predicts. If the NBA and NHL start playoff seasons this summer and the MLB returns, for instance, “it could be one of the bigger summers that we’ve ever had.”

Sergei Klebnikov, Forbes Staff, Markets

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Quote Of The Day

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“There are decades where nothing happens; and there are weeks where decades happen,”

–  Vladimir Lenin, Russian Political Theorist

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