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Last Updated: Thursday, 20 November, 2003, 12:10 GMT
The end for Jackson's career?
By Ian Youngs
BBC News Online entertainment

Jackson fans
Jackson fans have been promoting his new releases
Experts disagree on whether new child abuse allegations will spell the end for Michael Jackson's music career.

"You know what's strange and almost bizarre?" Uri Geller, Mr Jackson's one-time friend Uri Geller asked at the end of 2003 in light of the then recent allegations.

"His latest single is called One More Chance, and I fear that Michael Jackson has already used up his last chance."

Michael Jackson has been one of the most successful recording artists in history, with some estimates putting his total worldwide album sales at 165 million.

But he has also been the subject of wild rumours about his personal life, innuendos about his relationships with children and the "wacko" tag, which has firmly stuck.

Michael Jackson
Jackson has a highly loyal fan base
The music industry is now waiting to see how the public will react to the scandal - and whether it will spell the end for his music career.

"This is not good for his career, to say the least," said Variety magazine's music writer Phil Gallo said.

Peter Montoya, an author on personal branding, said the latest charges would taint Jackson's image forever - but the die-hard fans would stay loyal

And Gennaro Castaldo, spokesman for music chain HMV, said the headlines could help sales - but the gravity of the charges would make some fans turn away.

The news that Jackson's Neverland Ranch was being searched by police came two days after his latest greatest hits package, Number Ones, hit UK shops.

Michael Jackson in Thriller video
Thriller is one of the biggest-selling albums ever
It subsequently reached number one in November 2003.

Mr Castaldo said notoriety and publicity could often prompt more people to buy a CD.

And the public had "learned to distinguish between Michael Jackson the man - and all the weirdness that surrounds him - and Michael Jackson the recording artist, who is an icon," he added.

But Mr Gallo said child abuse allegations would do the worst possible damage to his career.

R Kelly
R Kelly topped the charts while accused of child porn
"There is not a lower crime to be accused of," he said.

"Artists can recover from murder allegations, from drug addiction and jails sentences, but the fact is that when you have a stigma of mistreating children, it sticks with you."

Mr Jackson has some of the most loyal fans of any music star - and they would "rally around him and make charges of racism and persecution", according to Mr Montoya.

"[But ] for most in the mainstream, Michael Jackson's brand will forever be poisoned by his bizarre, reprehensible, and possibly criminal behaviour," he said.

When similar allegations were made in 1993, Jackson's sales suffered a 10% dip - but there was little permanent damage, according to Billboard magazine's Geoff Mayfield.

And Jackson could still follow the example of R&B star R Kelly, who was charged with child pornography - but topped the charts on both sides of the Atlantic while awaiting trial.


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