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The Big Business of Rock Estates

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amy winehouse
Mike Marsland/WireImage

Artist: Amy Winehouse

Estate manager: As it was recently reported, Winehouse's father Mitch and mother Janis will inherit her wealth.

Major projects: The Amy Winehouse Foundation announced a scholarship for an impoverished child to London's Sylvia Young Theater School, which Winehouse attended when she was 13.

Recent or upcoming milestones: The foundation also plans a benefit concert in England sometime this year, but details have yet to be announced.

Philosophy: Winehouse's family set up the foundation last September to support impoverished and disabled young people. It donated almost $50,000 to a British rehab charity in late February.

cobain
Raffaella Cavalieri/Redferns

Artist: Kurt Cobain

Estate manager: Courtney Love. Sort of. As Cobain's widow, Love is the primary heir, so she controls his likeness and oversees a portion of the singer's publishing company End of Music. But Primary Wave Music bought 50 percent of the company in 2006 for $19.5 million, and others have since purchased other pieces.

Major projects: None.

Recent or upcoming milestones: Nirvana's Nevermind turned 20 last year, and the band's record label, Universal, put out several box sets, deluxe editions and live DVDs.

Philosophy: This may not count as a philosophy, but Love recently announced that last year's Muppets movie "raped" Cobain's memory with its use of Nirvana's "Smells Like Teen Spirit." Love insists she controls usage of Nirvana's songs, but Primary Wave has a large portion of the catalog, and says they approved use of the song along with the Kurt Cobain Estate, Dave Grohl and Krist Novoselic.

2pac
Ron Galella/WireImage

Artist: 2Pac

Estate manager: Afeni Shakur, Tupac's mother, who founded the Tupac Amaru Shakur Foundation in 1997.

Major projects: The prolific rapper's unreleased songs have finally started to run out – the estate took in $9 million in 2007 and $3.5 million last year, mostly from music sales, according to Forbes estimates. More recently, the estate has been marketing his Makaveli sneakers, T-shirts and sweaters.

Recent or upcoming milestones: The 15th anniversary of the rapper's death was last September, but the estate didn't do much other than to add some sections to 2pac.com.

Philosophy: "It was Tupac's greatest wish to inspire minds and spark the ideas that would change the world," the estate declared in a statement last year.

michael jackson
Phil Dent/Redferns

Artist: Michael Jackson

Estate manager: John Branca (formerly Jackson's attorney) and John McClain (a veteran record executive), on behalf of Jackson's mother, Katherine, and Michael's three children.

Major projects: A new album of official unreleased material comes out roughly once a year, usually around holiday season; Cirque du Soleil's Immortal tour continues through the end of 2012. A Cirque run in Vegas, an interactive museum, a Broadway show and a tribute tour are under discussion.

Recent or upcoming milestones: In the year and a half after Jackson died, in June 2009, his estate took in an estimated $310 million from music and merchandise sales and publishing.

Philosophy: “There’s a whole generation out there who doesn’t know about Michael and his music,” Branca recently told Business Week. “We’re going to change that.”

john june cash
Kevin Mazur/WireImage

Artist: Johnny Cash

Estate manager: Lou Robin, Cash's manager since 1973, on behalf of the John R. Cash Irrevocable Trust. Cash's son John Carter Cash is the family spokesperson.

Major projects: A museum in downtown Nashville, including 18,000 square feet of memorabilia displays and an auditorium for concerts. Cash's daughter, singer-songwriter Rosanne, was among the family members on hand for the groundbreaking last month.

Recent or upcoming milestones: Cash's 80th birthday would have been February 26th; country stars such as Kenny Chesney, Lucinda Williams, Kris Kristofferson and Jamey Johnson will pay tribute for the occasion on April 20th at Austin City Limits Live in Texas.

Philosophy: "We try to live up to the way John would've addressed these matters, were he here," says Robin, who gets a dozen requests to use Cash's music or image every day. Due to Cash's history with drug abuse, the estate avoids alcohol or tobacco endorsements. And it won't give you the right to put Johnny's face on a cuckoo clock – something a guy actually tried to do. "It runs the gamut from humor to not so much humor," Robin says.

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Song Stories

“Road to Nowhere”

Talking Heads | 1985

A cappella harmonies give way to an a fuller arrangement blending pop and electro-disco on "Road to Nowhere," but the theme remains constant: We're on an eternal journey to an undefined destination. The song vaulted back into the news a quarter century after it was a hit when Gov. Charlie Crist used it in his unsuccessful 2010 campaign for the U.S. Senate in Florida. "It's this little ditty about how there's no order and no plan and no scheme to life and death and it doesn't mean anything, but it's all right," Byrne said with a chuckle.

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