Lennon Inc. Business is booming, 30 years on

As music fans prepare to mark the anniversary of the Beatle's murder, Andrew Johnson reports on his ever-growing financial legacy

The 30th anniversary on Wednesday of John Lennon's death will see thousands of fans holding a vigil at a new memorial in Liverpool in tribute to the former Beatle. Increasingly, however, Lennon's legacy is not about music: it's about money. Lennon Inc is an industry fuelled by collectors, fans, his family and his native Liverpool.

This year Lennon came fifth in Forbes magazine's annual list of the top dead earners, with an annual income of £10m to add to the £400m-plus fortune inherited by his wife, Yoko Ono. The Lennon franchise includes heritage trails; museums; exhibitions – and sales – of his doodlings; the repackaging of his back catalogue; a thriving business in tribute acts and musicals; biopics; and friends and relatives keeping the name alive.

Memorabilia

£350,000: The price that handwritten lyrics to "I'm Only Sleeping" could raise at auction later this month.

Lennon is the number one seller in rock'n'roll memorabilia, according to Stephen Maycock of Bonhams, who is handling the sale. In June handwritten lyrics to "A Day in the Life" sold for $1.2m (£810,000) in New York. Mr Maycock first sold the same piece of paper while with Sotheby's in 1991 for £44,000.

"That gives you an idea in the increase in the market," he said. "In terms of memorabilia Lennon is significantly number one. There is some sort of magical aura about him."

Heritage

One million: The number of people who visit Liverpool each year to follow the Beatles trail. They will spend about £48m, and the figure doesn't take into account numbers for the two-month Tribute Season in the city to mark the 70th anniversary of Lennon's birth in October and the anniversary of his death this week.

Next year the new Museum of Liverpool will open with many Lennon artefacts. Richard Hector-Jones, a spokesman for the Beatles Story attraction in Liverpool, said they had "expanded enormously" with visitors from America and Brazil.

Art

£4,700: The going rate for a print of an original John Lennon drawing.

Yoko started making prints of her husband's work in batches of 300 in 1986. According to Jonathan Poole, an exhibition organiser and salesman for Bag One Arts Inc, the company Yoko set up to sell the art, prices range from about £500 to almost £5,000.

Critics may dismiss the work as "felt-tip comic cuts" but Mr Poole argues: "He's an icon. These images show his love for his family and for Yoko and, most importantly, his wit."

Recorded music

Two million: Beatles songs sold on iTunes in the first week of their release last month. Last year the remastered Beatles CDs sold 2.25 million copies within days of release, while sales of Beatles music for the Rock Band game topped 1.7 million within four months of its release. Lennon's solo back catalogue was also released in remastered form in October.

Film, theatre, books

Three: The number of musicals featuring Lennon's music currently in production. Rain – A Tribute to the Beatles is in the middle of a 12-week run on Broadway; Cirque du Soleil's Love – acrobatic performances to the music of the Beatles – is at the Mirage in Las Vegas; and The Sessions, a new musical about the early Abbey Road recording sessions, is to have a preview in Liverpool on Friday.

A search for John Lennon in the books section of Amazon brings up 5,000 results. The most recent tome, Life, Times and Assassination, suggests he was killed by the CIA. And this Wednesday, BBC4 is repeating its Lennon Naked drama, starring Christopher Eccleston.

Friends and family

£500m: Yoko Ono's estimated fortune. Yoko is the mistress of the Lennon estate, controlling his artwork and, as a key shareholder of Apple Corps, his back catalogue.

An exhibition of Julian and Cynthia Lennon's collection of personal items, White Feather: The Spirit of John Lennon, which "tells the emotional and intimate story of the Lennon family", was opened in Liverpool by the singer's first wife and eldest son earlier this year. Sean, the musician son of John and Yoko, is the musical director of Yoko's Plastic Ono Band.

Lennon's half-sister Julia Baird has also written a memoir, and friends and associates regularly pop up, such as Astrid Kirchherr, whose exhibition of Beatles photos is on in Liverpool.

Arts and Entertainment
Tate Modern chief Chris Dercon, who will be leaving to run a Berlin theatre company
arts
Arts and Entertainment
Tasos: 'I rarely refuse an offer to be photographed'
arts + ents
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment

ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment

ebooks
Arts and Entertainment
tv
Arts and Entertainment
Girls on the verge of a nervous breakdown: Florence Pugh and Maisie Williams star in 'The Falling'
Film
Arts and Entertainment
Legendary charm: Clive Owen and Keira Knightley in 2004’s ‘King Arthur’
FilmGuy Ritchie is the latest filmmaker to tackle the legend
Arts and Entertainment
Corporate affair: The sitcom has become a satire of corporate culture in general

TV review

Broadcasting House was preparing for a visit from Prince Charles spoiler alert
Arts and Entertainment
tvReview: There are some impressive performances by Claire Skinner and Lorraine Ashbourne in Inside No. 9, Nana's Party spoiler alert
Arts and Entertainment
Glastonbury's pyramid stage

Glastonbury Michael Eavis reveals final headline act 'most likely' British pair

Arts and Entertainment
Ewan McGregor looks set to play Lumiere in the Beauty and the Beast live action remake

Film Ewan McGregor joins star-studded Beauty and the Beast cast as Lumiere

Arts and Entertainment
Charlie feels the lack of food on The Island with Bear Grylls

TV

The Island with Bear Grylls under fire after male contestants kill and eat rare crocodile
Arts and Entertainment
Aaron Taylor-Johnson as Quicksilver and Elizabeth Olsen as Scarlet Witch, in a scene from Avengers: Age Of Ultron
filmReview: A great cast with truly spectacular special effects - but is Ultron a worthy adversaries for our superheroes? spoiler alert
Arts and Entertainment
Robin Ince performing in 2006
comedy
Arts and Entertainment
Beth (played by Jo Joyner) in BBC1's Ordinary Lies
tvReview: There’s bound to be a second series, but it needs to be braver spoiler alert
Arts and Entertainment
Paul Hollywood and Mary Berry, the presenters of The Great Comic Relief Bake Off 2015

TV
Arts and Entertainment
A still from Harold Ramis' original Groundhog Day film, released in 1993

Theatre
Arts and Entertainment
Christopher Eccleston (centre) plays an ex-policeman in this cliché-riddled thriller

TV review
Arts and Entertainment
Lena Headey looks very serious as Cersei Lannister in Game of Thrones

TV This TV review contains spoilers
Arts and Entertainment

film
Arts and Entertainment
Wiz Khalifa performs on stage during day one of the Wireless Festival at Perry Park in Birmingham

music
Arts and Entertainment
Festival-goers soak up the atmosphere at Glastonbury

music

Arts and Entertainment
Star Wars creator George Lucas

film

Arts and Entertainment

music

  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    Not even the 'putrid throat' could stop the Ross Poldark swoon-fest'

    Not even the 'putrid throat' could stop the Ross Poldark swoon-fest'

    How a costume drama became a Sunday night staple
    Miliband promises no stamp duty for first-time buyers as he pushes Tories on housing

    Miliband promises no stamp duty for first-time buyers

    Labour leader pushes Tories on housing
    Aviation history is littered with grand failures - from the the Bristol Brabazon to Concorde - but what went wrong with the SuperJumbo?

    Aviation history is littered with grand failures

    But what went wrong with the SuperJumbo?
    Fear of Putin, Islamists and immigration is giving rise to a new generation of Soviet-style 'iron curtains' right across Europe

    Fortress Europe?

    Fear of Putin, Islamists and immigration is giving rise to a new generation of 'iron curtains'
    Never mind what you're wearing, it's what you're reclining on

    Never mind what you're wearing

    It's what you're reclining on that matters
    General Election 2015: Chuka Umunna on the benefits of immigration, humility – and his leader Ed Miliband

    Chuka Umunna: A virus of racism runs through Ukip

    The shadow business secretary on the benefits of immigration, humility – and his leader Ed Miliband
    Yemen crisis: This exotic war will soon become Europe's problem

    Yemen's exotic war will soon affect Europe

    Terrorism and boatloads of desperate migrants will be the outcome of the Saudi air campaign, says Patrick Cockburn
    Marginal Streets project aims to document voters in the run-up to the General Election

    Marginal Streets project documents voters

    Independent photographers Joseph Fox and Orlando Gili are uploading two portraits of constituents to their website for each day of the campaign
    Game of Thrones: Visit the real-life kingdom of Westeros to see where violent history ends and telly tourism begins

    The real-life kingdom of Westeros

    Is there something a little uncomfortable about Game of Thrones shooting in Northern Ireland?
    How to survive a social-media mauling, by the tough women of Twitter

    How to survive a Twitter mauling

    Mary Beard, Caroline Criado-Perez, Louise Mensch, Bunny La Roche and Courtney Barrasford reveal how to trounce the trolls
    Gallipoli centenary: At dawn, the young remember the young who perished in one of the First World War's bloodiest battles

    At dawn, the young remember the young

    A century ago, soldiers of the Empire – many no more than boys – spilt on to Gallipoli’s beaches. On this 100th Anzac Day, there are personal, poetic tributes to their sacrifice
    Dissent is slowly building against the billions spent on presidential campaigns – even among politicians themselves

    Follow the money as never before

    Dissent is slowly building against the billions spent on presidential campaigns – even among politicians themselves, reports Rupert Cornwell
    Samuel West interview: The actor and director on austerity, unionisation, and not mentioning his famous parents

    Samuel West interview

    The actor and director on austerity, unionisation, and not mentioning his famous parents
    General Election 2015: Imagine if the leading political parties were fashion labels

    Imagine if the leading political parties were fashion labels

    Fashion editor, Alexander Fury, on what the leaders' appearances tell us about them
    Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka: Home can be the unsafest place for women

    Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka: Home can be the unsafest place for women

    The architect of the HeForShe movement and head of UN Women on the world's failure to combat domestic violence