From Baby Driver to Atomic Blonde, Streaming Has Saved The Movie Soundtrack
JOHN HOULIHAN’S MISSION seemed impossible. The music supervisor for Atomic Blonde had to win over George Michael, New Order, and Public Enemy, with nothing but a little bit of cash and the promise that their music would be playing as a backdrop to Charlize Theron doing badass spy stuff in 1989 Berlin. As someone who has been soundtracking films for more than 20 years, Houlihan knew in theory how to convince them and their licensors—bartering, negotiation, outright pleading—but the soundtrack-licensing game today is much different than it when he was finding music for Austin Powers.
From the 1980s to the early 2000s, a good movie soundtrack could become the year’s greatest mixtape. In 1987, it was Dirty Dancing. In 1992, it was Singles. Pulp Fiction and Above the Rim tied for the honor in 1994. Romeo + Juliet took the cake in 1996 and so on. But as iTunes—and later, streaming services—became more prevalent, the need for movies to compile a bunch of killer tracks in a physical album release has all but vaporized. (Why buy the 8 Mile soundtrack when you can just queue up an Eminem playlist on Spotify?)
This had two distinct effects on music supervisors’ jobs. First, fewer labels tried to strong-arm their hot new artists onto movie soundtracks. Second, they—and their musicians—became more amenable to licensing out their back-catalogue material, especially when physical album sales were dropping precipitously. “As the record business has segued from the brick-and-mortar thing that’s long-gone to this new digital thing, there’s been huge drops in their revenue,” Houlihan says. “Now this little side-dish thing of them giving synchronization licenses has become a lifeblood.” Both current and older artists realized that moviegoers who heard their song might be more likely to stream the rest of their body of work. And in 2017, that consideration has evolved to help make soundtracks the most vital and vibrant they’ve been in decades. Continue…
well to be honest, i’m kinda glad to hear this since i’ve been a long time fan of movie soundtracks… probably going way back to when i was a young teenager, and it was a cool way to get your hands on a CD with good songs from various artists… hell, i often will look for a good movie i just watched on spotify to see if there’s a soundtrack and will tune-in while working if one’s available.
PS. listening to “baby driver” soundtrack right now :)
PS. Charlize Theron looks so hot in that pic…