All About Estates

Dancing with the Dead

This blog was written by Aathiya Bala, Associate Estate and Trust Consultant with Scotia Wealth Management


If you had the chance to see your favourite artist perform in concert after they passed away, would you attend? For many Whitney Houston fans, this is now a legitimate question to ask themselves.

In May 2019, Whitney Houston’s estate signed a deal with Primary Wave Music Publishing, a boutique marketing and music company in New York. This deal was to create a hologram tour that will feature a digital version of Houston performing her hits such as “I Wanna Dance With Somebody” and “The Greatest Love of All”. The tour is currently in the production stage but claims to have tickets ready for this year.

The music industry has had great interest in the whole idea of hologram tours ever since Tupac Shakur made a surprise appearance (well the digital 3D version of him) at the 2012 Coachella music festival. While some people may have enjoyed seeing Tupac rise from the dead, others considered it pretty creepy… but can you blame them? The moonwalking Michael Jackson hologram at the 2014 Billboard Musical awards was another ghostly appearance made on stage that left people questioning “is this the new trend for celebrity estates”?

The ethics of whether it’s right to hologram dead celebrities seems to be of concern. Some may argue these tours glorify the celebrities’ life and doesn’t really show any of the challenges and sensitivities that encompass the legacy of the artist.

The issue of legality is also something to consider. In Tupac’s instance, was it legal for Dr. Dre and Snoop Dogg to bring Tupac’s image on stage?  Since this was a use of Tupac’s image for commercial purposes, only the rights owned by his estate could make this decision under the control of the executor — his mother, Afeni Shakur.

These situations bring up some key concerns that a lot of us should think about.  Even if you’re not famous, and don’t have to worry about the possibility of you performing digitally after you die, you have a name and reputation that will live on after you’re gone.

Naming an executor essentially gives that person (or entity) the power to control your legacy after you pass. When planning your estate documents, it’s not merely considering who gets which share of the pie.  Choosing the right person to manage your estate, trust or business after you’re gone is crucial, both for your loved ones and often for your own reputation.

It’ll be interesting to see the reviews of Houston’s tour once it comes out; that is if it’s not shut down prior due to angry fans arguing this is not what she would have wanted. But the way I see it, this hologram tour is just the beginning of a new era for the entertainment world. Who’s next? Bob Marley? The Jackson 5? I guess only time (and the death of another celebrity) can tell.



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