SOUND-TRACK BLUES: It used to be so simple. You put a new song in a film, released it on a sound-track album around the same time and-- voila --if the record was a hit, it helped hype the film while the movie promoted the record.
Now that sound tracks have become big business, life is more complicated. Movies have songs that aren't on the sound track. Other films have hot new songs, but no sound track at all.
You've probably heard some great songs in several recent Hollywood movies. But before you rush out to buy the sound-track album--you better check to see if the song's actually on the record. The Talking Heads' "Once in a Lifetime" is the most spotlighted song in "Down and Out in Beverly Hills." And everyone's favorite track in "Wildcats" is LL Cool J's "Football Rap." But neither song appears in the films' sound-track albums.
Why not? According to a spokesman at MCA Records, which distributes the "Down and Out" sound track, the song was only made available to Walt Disney Productions for use in the film, not in a sound track. A spokesman for Warner Bros. Records, which issued the "Wildcats" sound track, cited similar problems.
"We just haven't been able to get the rights from CBS (LL Cool J's record label) in time to put 'Football Rap' on the album," said a Warners spokesman. "We really like the song, so we're still trying to get permission to release the track, perhaps as a 12-inch single."
What's making sound-track packaging so difficult? "One major factor is competition between record companies," explained Steve Bedell, music vice president at Paramount Pictures. "Record companies have become increasingly reluctant to give away their superstars' sound-track rights to other record labels. Also, I'm sensing that the cost of producing a track just for a sound track is a lot higher, due to artist performance fees, than if the song were being produced for the artist's own album."
Bedell added that there is a growing concern about a consumer backlash to sound tracks that merely offer a few new songs and a host of score material. "With all due respect to Tina Turner, the sound track to 'Mad Max Beyond Thunderdome' had only a few of her songs and a lot of movie score. I have to feel that the consumer may have been very ticked off by that package."
With that in mind, the studio's "Gung Ho" (which opened Friday) won't have a sound track at all, despite the presence of new rock material from the Pretenders, Jimmy Barnes and the Fabulous Thunderbirds.
"We just felt that we shouldN't force a record on consumers, especially if you don't have enough songs to really justify an album," Bedell said. "We're still pursuing promotional tie-ins, but through working with the artists' own record labels."