How Whitney Houston’s Estate Used NFTs to Pay Off Her Debts

Whitney Houston’s death in 2012 was sudden. During that time, the singer was in the midst of a comeback, having released an album just three years prior, embarked on a European tour, and promoted a film that she starred in and executive produced. But she was reportedly in massive debt at the time of her death, leaving her estate scrambling to figure things out. They quickly learned that NFTs were a beneficial way to earn money and keep her name and likeness alive.

Whitney Houston claps on stage; Houston's estate used NFTs to pay off her debts
Whitney Houston claps on stage | Pascal Le Segretain/Getty Images

Whitney Houston owed money on her history-making contract at the time of her death

At the time of Whitney Houston’s death, her estate was reportedly not in the best shape. Afrotech reports there were still millions owed on the $100 million artist contract she signed with Sony/Arista. Houston signed the deal in 2001 when her longtime mentor Clive Davis left the label in order for her to stay. The new contract for Houston meant a $25 million advance and six albums. 

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Under the new contract, she released two albums, Just for Me and I Look to You, as well as a holiday album, One Wish. This means she still owed the label three albums. 

Celebrity Net Worth reports that Houston only earned $40 million out of the total $100 million that her record company owed her. “An artist is paid in stages, and each payment is essentially a loan based on the success of future albums,” reports the outlet. “Whitney only ever earned $40 million of her $100 million contract, but unfortunately, her records did not sell well. Therefore she ended up actually owing the record label nearly $20 million.”

The singer’s estate used NFTs to help pay off her debts

After Houston’s death, the singer’s estate went to work to pay off her debts and preserve her legacy, while also figuring out new ways to expand it. Her fifth and final film, Sparkle, was released six months after her death in August 2012.

Once Sony acquired the rights to her masters, there was more to be done. The estate partnered with Quincy Jones-backed OneOf to release a series of NFTs featuring her likeness, as well as an NFT featuring a 17-year-old teenage Houston that sold for just under $1 million.

A non-fungible token is a record on a blockchain that is associated with a particular digital or physical asset. The ownership of an NFT is recorded in the blockchain, and can be transferred by the owner, allowing NFTs to be sold and traded.

There are major projects the estate has that have expanded her net worth

Houston’s estate continues to push out new projects. The first-ever authorized biopic of Houston will be released in December 2022. There’s also a handful of merchandise and special releases of albums with more still in the works. Additionally, there was a controversial hologram tour. The estate is currently planning a major campaign in honor of her 60th birthday for 2023, a Broadway musical, and they relaunched her foundation.

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