As word spread of the sudden death of Michael Jackson on 25 June, radio stations around the world reacted by playing his music and giving fans a place to express their emotions.
Jackson classics reentered the top airplay charts in United Kingdom, Romania, Denmark and other nations. In the United States, airplay for the King of Pop increased 1,735 percent compared to the week before his death, according to Nielsen Broadcast Data Systems.
“Billie Jean,” “Thriller,” “Rock With You,” “Don’t Stop ’til You Get Enough” and “P.Y.T.” were played on the airwaves at rates not heard since Jackson’s heyday in the 1980s.
In Belgium, Studio Brussel came up with an original idea for the station and fans to pay tribute to Michael Jackson and his pioneering dance move, the moonwalk.
The “Eternal Moonwalk” Web site features listeners and Jackson fans from around the world moonwalking from one side of the screen to the next; as one person goes off the left-hand side of the screen a new moonwalker appears on the right. Across the top of the screen, a pedometer tracks the distance travelled by the moonwalkers.
The site —
www.eternalmoonwalk.com — went live on 3 July and within a week it had more than a half-million visits and more than 2,500 submissions — some 5 kilometers of moonwalks.
“Eternal Moonwalk” has proved a viral success; even pop superstar Justin Timberlake mentioned it on his blog: “It’s an eternally beautiful, moving example of how MJ influenced and inspired us all.”
Studio Brussel Manager Jan Van Biesen described “Eternal Moonwalk” as a very simple idea that was successful because it is “catchy.” “It is a real tribute from our radio saying we like the King of Pop,” he told The Associated Press. “This is our eternal moonwalk for him.”
The station continues to solicit moonwalk videos, and the response has come from around the world. That Belgians are well represented on the site is no surprise given that Studio Brussel is behind the site, but a large number of Brazilians also seem willing to tape themselves moonwalking at home, outside and in the office. Children, dogs, puppets, animations, potatoes, even a Dalek glide in and out of the Eternal Moonwalk frame.
Some of the participants are clearly having a laugh at their chance for public exposure; others are performing true tributes; and a few are taking the opportunity for some free advertising, including a few radio stations. The robot mascot for Nova FM in Australia is one of the moonwalkers, as are presenters from Virgin Radio in Montréal and Q-Music in Amsterdam.
The Flash-based “Eternal Moonwalk” site was developed for Studio Brussel by Web developer Group94 and advertising agency Mortierbrigade.
It remains to be seen how long stations will keep Michael Jackson songs in heavy rotation, but stations looking for yet another way to marshal listeners to dance action should start preparing for late October.
Thrill the World is looking to set new world record for Largest Simultaneous Thriller Dance by having people worldwide dance the choreography for the Michael Jackson’s zombie anthem “Thriller” on Sunday, 25 October 00:30 UTC/GMT.
In 2008, 4,179 people in 72 cities, 10 nations and five continents participated in the mass dance Jackson tribute. More information is at