Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Swan Song for Movie Soundtracks...Slumping CD sales, iTunes policies take their toll on a once-strong source of revenue

Rizvi taps JPMorgan's Hallren

Veteran will head up a new entertainment consultancy

By Carl DiOrio

Updated: Aug 10, 2009, 10:38 PM ET

Clark Hallren, a key player at film finance giant JPMorgan Securities, will move on Monday to head up a new entertainment consultancy at Rizvi Traverse Management, a Michigan-headquartered investment firm that controls ICM.

In the new post, Hallren occasionally will work with execs in other parts of the firm, but the unit will work independently from other Rizvi operations.
A name for the Los Angeles-based advisory hasn't been announced.
Rizvi acquired a majority stake in ICM in 2005, at which time ICM topper Jeff Berg remained the largest individual shareholder of the talent agency.
As a managing director at JPMorgan Securities, Hallren most recently worked with studios including MGM, DreamWorks and DreamWorks Animation.
He also helped shepherd recent financing for entertainment companies including Overture Films and Lakeshore Entertainment.
During the past decade, Hallren has been closely associated with John Miller, who until recently supervised JPMorgan's Los Angeles-based entertainment group.
Miller has segued into a part-time consultant role at JPMorgan;
David Shaheen, previously an exec in the firm's entertainment-research unit, assumed leadership of the entertainment group Jan. 1.
Rizvi has offices in Birmingham, Mich.; Los Angeles; Oxford, Conn.; and New York.

By Dominic Patten

Slumping CD sales and the increasing influence of iTunes over the music industry have taken a toll on the once reliable revenues of movie soundtracks -- and that’s left studios increasingly reluctant to release soundtracks to many films.
“While it’s still worth it for the right project, there are a lot of studios who aren’t even doing soundtrack deals anymore because they think it’s a waste of time,” Patricia Joseph, VP of Music Placement and Licensing for NYC-based Razor & Tie Entertainment, told TheWrap.
Joseph, whose company worked on the soundtracks for “Taken,” “Speed Racer,” Woody Allen’s “Whatever Works” and “Alvin & the Chipmunks,” said if “there are only a couple of songs that are licensed into the film and available on their own, the studios are starting to think that it just doesn’t make sense to the bottom line put a record out.
”Sacha Baron Cohen’s “Bruno” was full of classics such as AC/DC’s “Back in Black” and Soft Cell’s “Tainted Love” -- not to mention a celeb-packed satirical singalong featuring Bono, Coldplay’s Chris Martin, Slash, Sting and Snoop Dogg -- yet Universal Pictures has not put out a soundtrack.

“Studios look at factors like the licensing fees, the production fees, the partnership deal they could strike with a label,” says one L.A. music producer who has worked on a number of big budget soundtracks, “and it just doesn’t seem worth it.”
Even some movies starring actual singing sensations don’t make it to CD.

“BeyoncĂ© Knowles was one of the stars of 'Obsessed' and had a song in the movie,” notes the music producer, “but Sony never released a soundtrack.”
Not that you couldn’t get the tune if you liked it -- “Smash Into You,” the BeyoncĂ© track featured in the film, had already been released on the deluxe version of the singer’s “I Am Sasha Fierce.” (Universal had no comment, and Sony did not return TheWrap's requests in time for this article.)
Not all soundtracks are tanking.
“Hannah Montana: The Movie” went platinum in just two months, “Twilight” has sold 2.2 million copies since it hit the shelves in November 2008 and “Slumdog Millionaire” soared to number two on the Billboard albums chart after winning the Oscar.

But gone forever are the days of “The Bodyguard,” the best selling soundtrack of all time -- thanks to Whitney Houston’s “I Will Always Love You” -- moving 17 million copies,

“Top Gun” selling 9 million copies and

the rootsy 8 million sales of “O Brother Where Art Thou.” “Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen” is the highest grossing film of 2009 so far, having generated over $380 million in box office and over $809 million worldwide since its release on June 24.

In years past, the soundtrack for a blockbuster like that would be flying off the shelves.
But even with a new song by the popular Linkin Park, “New Divide,” the album is all rusty parts, according to Chris Byerly, store manager of Amoeba Music on Sunset.
“It’s not doing well here,” Byerly told TheWrap.
“Whatever sales ‘Transformers 2’ did were driven by the single.”
Even a big promotional push for “New Divide” when the movie premiered didn’t help.
The song debuted at number six when it came out on May 18 and fell the next week to number 39.
Unlike, say, the days of “I Don’t Want to Miss a Thing,” Aerosmith’s number-one single from “Armageddon.”
Or the inescapable “My Heart Will Go On” by Celine Dion from the soundtrack to 1997’s “Titanic,” which has sold over 11 million copies.
As for the “Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen” album itself, despite Linkin Park and material from Green Day, Nickelback and Avenged Sevenfold, it has sold just over 115,000 copies -- about half the 222,000 copies of the soundtrack for the first “Transformers” back in 2007, according to Nielsen SoundScan, which tracks weekly music sales.
The robotic sequel isn’t alone.
Even with MySpace exclusives and secret shows by goth rockers My Chemical Romance, the Boomer-heavy soundtrack for “The Watchmen” got even less traction this spring than Zack Snyder’s big-screen adaptation of the acclaimed graphic novel.
Then there’s “500 Days of Summer,” one of the most critically acclaimed films of the summer and an indie film truly built around music.
Yet the soundtrack -- full of Smiths, Feist and Regina Spektor tunes -- sold less than 12,000 copies two weeks after it came out on July 14, according to SoundScan.

It was a far cry from 2004's "Garden State."
The soundtrack for that indie movie not only went gold but beautifully evoked the tone of Zach Braff's directorial debut -- and broke the band the Shins in the same way "The Graduate" broke Simon & Garfunkel.
The story isn’t much better for the “score” album, once a staple of the industry, though a genre that has been eclipsed in recent years by rock-song-loaded soundtracks.
According to SoundScan, recent figures are dismal: “Star Trek,” 43,000; “Ice Age: Dawn of the Dinosaurs,” less than 1,000; even “Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince” only sold 28,000.
One problem, of course, is that the whole industry is down.
Music sales are falling in the double digits with 2008 down 14 percent from 2007, which itself was a year of decline.
But even in a somewhat healthy arena like iTunes, the genre is badly hurting.
Blame changing consumer patterns.
Music buyers, especially the younger ones, tend to purchase tunes individually online, rather than by albums.
But the largest online download store, iTunes, primarily insists soundtracks be sold as complete albums.

Unlike with most albums where you can cherry-pick songs for 99 cents each, the only choice on iTunes often is “album only.”
On the recent “Funny People” soundtrack -- featuring music by Robert Plant, James Taylor and even Adam Sandler -- only two songs could be purchased individually.
The same was true with “500 Days,” “Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen,” “Imagine That” and a third of the “Fast & Furious” soundtrack.

It’s also true of “Twilight” -- with music by Paramore, Muse and the movie’s heartthrob star Robert Pattison.
One reason most of the songs are sold “album only” is to induce consumers to purchase the whole album, to further the album as a concept of the film.
As an Apple spokesperson told TheWrap, it’s "to make the product more discoverable to consumers.
"The over-two-time-platinum “Twilight,” at least, has proven very discoverable on iTunes.
It has sold an impressive 489,000 digital copies and has sauntered in and out of the iTunes Top 20 and Billboard’s Top 20 since it was released last year.
“Twilight,” specifically targeted towards the demographic of fans of author Stephenie Meyer -- who has repeatedly cited the UK band Muse, who are on the soundtrack, as an inspiration to the vampire novels -- and tweens, is the big exception in today’s market, Razor & Tie’s Joseph told TheWrap.
All but one song, Paramore’s “Decode,” are available on “Twilight” as “album only,” a trend that Joseph finds extremely detrimental to soundtrack sales.

If today’s singles-oriented consumer is alerted to one song in a movie and finds that the soundtrack is a compilation, he will just go somewhere else to buy the song, whether that be another album by the artist or illegal download.

“It definitely puts an impact on potential soundtrack sales,” she told TheWrap.

Matt Weiner's Hollywood Breakthrough
His big moment as a writer for "The Sopranos"? When his agents lost interest, he just did it himself.

By Matt Weiner (to Eric Estrin)

The Television Academy continued its love affair with Matt Weiner this year, nominating his show “Mad Men” for a best dramatic series Emmy, after giving it the same award in its freshman season last year.

He also won a 2008 Emmy for writing the show’s pilot and is nominated again this year in four of the five dramatic writing slots.
Before creating “Mad Men,” whose third season premieres Aug. 16 on AMC, Weiner helped write and produce “The Sopranos” -- but he worked for years in comedy before making the switch.

He talks with Eric Estrin about how he did it. (Hint: Don’t look for the word “agent.”)

My real break was going to USC graduate school.
I made a documentary there, I got a lot of attention, I got married, and when I finished at school my wife supported me as the attention from my documentary disappeared.
So I wrote.
I stayed home and I wrote.
I wrote a feature that I thought could be done for $100,000, and then I met some guy who was gonna make it.
He was like a friend of my wife’s aunt, and his buddy wanted to do movies, and that dragged on for months, literally like six months of, “We’re gonna sign the papers on Monday.”
And I gained a lot of weight and I stopped writing.
And finally I was like, “You know what, forget this, I’m just gonna make my own movie.”
It was a story very thinly removed from real life, about a guy who had stopped writing.
And it’s all about realizing you can live your entire life in the future if you want to, but the truth is, life is passing you right now and you’re gonna miss the entire thing.
I shot the movie in 10 days and then I got a job, right after I finished it.
Part of my inspiration was that a friend of mine from Wesleyan University, Daisy Mayer, had made this movie “Party Girl.”

And she had sold this movie, and I was very inspired by her.
I was preparing for my film screening, and she came out to Los Angeles and they were making a TV show of her movie, and she called me on the phone and asked me for some kind of joke.
They were trying to find a joke, and I gave her the joke, and she said, “Listen, do you want to come in and do punch-up?”
I didn’t even know such a job existed.
And I went in, and I was really good at it.
So then my movie screened, and within five or six days I had a lot of agents interested in me, and things were happening.
And then I got a call saying “Party Girl” had been picked up and did I want a job, and I said yes.

I signed with an agent who was also very excited about my movie.
But what happened is the agents who had promised to help me with the movie just kind of threw it by the wayside because I had a job in TV.
So the show went down, and the agents told me they couldn’t do anything for me.
So I started writing specs.
I did something else, too, which became something that I did throughout my career:
When pilot season came, I made myself available, and I said anybody who has a pilot I will come in and do a punch-up for free.
Getting in the room with these people, if you can work under pressure, is a great way to audition.
I met a lot of people doing that, and I got a very good reputation.
So from doing all that I got a few different jobs working on sitcoms, but they kept getting canceled.
And then I was hired on “Becker.”
You’re not hearing the word “agent” in any of this, by the way.
I don’t know if you noticed that.
I had been researching this advertising idea for two years.
Every night I would pay someone -- I would dictate to them, and they would do research.
And I would stay after work and work on this advertising thing.
And in between the big second and third seasons of “Becker,” when I realized that I had a hiatus, three months where I knew that I still had a job, I just pulled the trigger.
I hired a writer’s assistant because I was so exhausted, and also I felt it was like having a personal trainer.
I realized that I would work because I was paying that person $11 an hour to be there.
And I knocked the show out pretty quickly.
And that was the script that later became “Mad Men.”
It had been brewing for, I’m not kidding, for three years, I’d been taking notes and been thinking about it and doing research.
I just did it and I gave it to my agents, and they didn’t pay any attention to it.
And finally two years later, I left “Becker.”
I was working on “Andy Richter,” and I just said to my agents, “Send this script to David Chase, send it to Alan Ball.”
They were both at UTA, which is where I was.
And they told me Alan Ball wasn’t gonna read it; he only looked at playwrights, which I’ve since talked to him about and he was amused by.
And David Chase’s show, they told me, they’re feature people, they’re “Law and Order,” they’re procedural, they’re one-hour people.
I had since gotten a manager, who really did help me a lot.
And my manager told them, “If you don’t get this to David Chase, Matt’s gonna leave the agency.”
So they got it to him, and a week later I was in New York on “The Sopranos.”
The most important thing people have to know is that I wrote a lot for free; I never sold a pitch.

And when I made that first movie, even though it never produced any financial reward for me, it changed me as a person and I no longer felt like a victim who was waiting for the phone to ring.
I felt like, well, I’ve done my half of it and believe it or not, I don’t know if my bitterness fell away -- and later came back -- but I was a different person, and that’s when things happened for me.

No comments: