On June 15th 2009, one of the world’s most famous icons died. Michael Jackson’s death triggered an outpouring of grief around the world, firstly creating a dramatic increase in sales of his music. Just hours after his death, previous albums and tracks stormed the music charts, featuring seven well-known classics in the top ten. Why did his death cause such an increase in sales? Surely his fans already had his music? Perhaps due to the overplaying of his music on the radio and television, it caused a sudden outburst of obsession with his music. Audiences of any music station or music channel would have heard his music every day, almost causing a brain-washing effect and leading them to purchase his music.
His world tour “This Is It” was scheduled to commence less than three weeks after his death. After it was cancelled, Columbia Pictures acquired footage of show rehearsals and made it into a concert film, allowing people to still see the concert, even if the man was not there himself. People said they found the film made it feel like he was still alive, as though he had just finished filming and “wanted to offer his fans something new.”
There was consistent global coverage of the star’s death, which practically dominated the news. Several Jackson-related stories were featured on news broadcasts, particularly American but also in British television. Whether the broadcasts were about the death in general, the Jackson family, his autopsy or his music sale, stories were broadcasted and published daily.
His music began to take over radio stations, music channels and his death was constantly documented on the news or made into a television documentary. A lot of discussion featured in the documentaries and on the radio was ‘How’, ‘Why’ and possible ‘Who’. Which relates to a lot of public posts on social networks- some opinions led to the suggestion that his doctor caused his death by giving him unnecessary or illegal drugs to make him suffer or kill him slowly. This actually led to his doctor being arrested and questioned. Many ideas of conspiracies were posted by the public and as these ideas spread, they became rumour and some people stated that they were fact, and this shows the strength of social networks and the public. These events also imply that the death of a celebrity can cause the world to come to a sudden breakdown, and create ideas that “it wasn’t their fault”. Social network users posted opinions which would cause arguments and discussion, with more and more users getting involved every second.
The news caused a huge surge in Internet traffic. Virgin Media said “it’s the first time we’ve had so many crashing problems since 9/11”. Michael Jackson dominated Twitter trends, Facebook groups, YouTube hits and Google search terms. The jamming of posts led the Internet to crashing point. This shows an active rather than passive reaction of the public- where people wanted to reach out and create their own moment and reportage via social networking, rather than allow it to create a historical event through facts broadcasted on the news.
Michael Jackson’s funeral was held in Los Angeles, but was broadcasted worldwide. This reminded the world of what an icon he was and how much he would be missed. The funeral had an amazing 31 million viewers, as well as those who attendee. The celebrities who gave speeches, provided performances and attended his funeral represented his friendships, popularity and the hero he was to most people, and that he was, and still remains, “The King of Pop”.