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Wanted, dead or alive: The earning potential of dead celebs

Milanee Kapadia

A new music video premiered late Wednesday night via Twitter and it's from the top-earning celeb of 2013.  Michael Jackson’s “A Place with No Name” was released via Jackson’s Twitter account. According to Forbes, Jackson earned $160 million in 2013, topping the list of highest-earning dead celebrities. Jackson's total also bested the highest-earning living celebrities, where Modanna came in #1 with $125 million in earnings for 2013. Last year marked the third time in the past five years that the celebrity who earned the most is no longer living.

Yahoo spoke to Forbes senior editor and author of the book “Michael Jackson, Inc,”  Zack O’Malley Greenburg about how the dead artist is pulling in millions of dollars even after his death. O'Malley Greenburg chalks it up to Jackson’s unique ability to tour in two places at once. There are two Jackson themed Cirque Du Soleil shows running: one in vegas and the other globally. The latter is one of the top ten grossing shows of all time. The King of Pop's estate also earns millions from his already-released music and from his Sony catalog, which includes music from The Beatles.

Next on Forbes' list is Elvis Presley, followed by Peanuts creator, Charles Schulz. But those are celebrities that passed away decades ago.

Paul Walker was killed in November 2013, while "Fast & Furious 7" was still in production. The film will be released next year with Paul Walker featured in it. In fact, technology plays a huge part in the resurgence of dead celebrities and their careers. Walker will appear in the film via digital slight of hand and sibling stand-ins. 

And what is to say there won’t be a "Fast & Furious 8", "9" and "10"with Walker in them? Holograms of Michael Jackson and Tupac Shakur have appeared at live performances. Speaking of Tupac - he released seven albums after his death - all of which went platinum.

In the Twitter age, celebrities don’t die, they live on through their social media presence. Michael Jackson currently has 1.57 million Twitter followers.

The recent death of actor Robin Williams also released an outpouring of sentiment on Twitter and Facebook. Seven of Williams' films occupy eight of the top 20-selling DVDs Amazon's Film & TV Best Sellers list and five of the top 20 on iTunes. He leaves behind four films that will be released over the next few months.

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