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Studios bend rules for shot at Oscar

Restrictions make music marketers get creative

Where there’s a will, there’s a way. When NBC Universal music chief Kathy Nelson wanted to tout “Do You Feel Me,” the Diane Warren-penned track in “American Gangster,” she combined homevideo footage of crooner Anthony Hamilton singing the song with snippets from the film, and posted the completed video on YouTube. Nearly 120,000 people have viewed the video. It also became a staple on BET.

Live concerts, CD inserts in trade magazines and specially created YouTube videos are among the ways Oscar music branch voters are being targeted by marketers under the revised AMPAS rules.

The new marketing tactics follow a shift in Academy guidelines. Responding to complaints by music branch members that their mailboxes crested with promotional mailings during Oscar voting time, the Academy in August decided that studios and marketers no longer could directly send “For Your Consideration” CDs to members. It also insisted that voters must hear the music within the context of the movie before voting for original song and score nominees.

Nelson, who agrees with the new rule, says that “it’s important for voters to see how the music organically enhances the picture. It’s one of the reasons we made the video.” Nelson also knew that without an end-titles hit single backed by a record label’s promotional machine, she’d need to get the song in front of voters by other means.

To tout “Enchanted,” Disney recently inserted “For Your Consideration” CDs into trade publications. The disc features “Happy Working Song” and “That’s How You Know,” performed by Amy Adams, and a third cut, “So Close,” performed by Jon McLaughlin. Disney hopes the three tunes will land original song noms for the authors, Oscar nod perennials Alan Menken and Stephen Schwartz. A track by Menken for original score is also on the promo disc.

The “Enchanted” disc joins CDs boasting songs from “Ratatouille,” “Once” and “Into the Wild,” among others, that have been inserted into entertainment trades as a way to reach industry tastemakers and voters.

“The Academy is just one of those areas you just have to respect and play by their rules because we know they have the best intentions,” says Mitchell Leib, president of music and soundtracks for Disney, whose studio is in a full-court marketing press on behalf of the music featured in “Enchanted.”

“Unfortunately, it’s more expensive to take out huge ads and do inserts,” he says. “But in a very strange way, it’s leveled the playing field a little bit because now everybody has to play by the same rules.”

Studios also have orchestrated live concert events, such as Sondre Lerche performing songs he wrote for “Dan in Real Life,” Vedder performing material from “Into the Wild” and John C. Reilly barnstorming the country as Dewey Cox, his character from “Walk Hard.” Plus, Glen Hansard and his band the Frames spent the summer and fall on tour warbling nuggets from “Once,” the film in which he stars with Marketa Irglova.

And there have been a plethora of screenings of some of the music-centric pics with filmmaker Q&As afterward, some with both the director and composer; efforts that are all designed to help get tongues wagging and raise voter awareness.

However, despite the rule change, studios and publicists continue to send out “For Your Consideration” CDs to media members, and make the film music accessible by other means, such as on iTunes. The Weinstein Co. recently arranged with the Apple site to allow music mavens to be able to download free songs from “The Great Debaters.”

To cut down on waste, and increase accessibility, some music execs suggest that next year, the studios should consider uploading the music and film footage into a password-protected website so voters could see the context and hear the use of the music in the comfort of their home.

But Fox Music president Robert Kraft suggests the perfect method to evaluate a film’s music has yet to be developed. “In theory, the Academy is absolutely right, film music needs to be seen (by) how it complements the motion picture,” he says. “The hard part is, very frequently, that the intent of the music that was written is not the way it is presented in the movie. We need to figure a way to get around that.”

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