Show gives artists an opportunity to break out

Kate Voegele knows a thing or two about the “One Tree Hill” bump.

Prior to appearing on the show in February, the artist was selling around 200 to 500 units a week of her MySpace Records release “Don’t Look Away.” After the first week she appeared on “One Tree Hill,” Voegele sold 10,167 units — a whopping increase of 2,000% or more.

“It was massive,” says Voegele’s manager, Debbie Wilson. “Radio stations have been calling. Her shows are packed with ‘One Tree Hill’ fans. They’re going online, checking her music out, they’re liking it and buying it.”

Now in its fifth season, “One Tree Hill” continues to embrace music to help tell its stories — with a particular focus on up-and-coming artists like Voegele. That music-driven mantra comes from “One Tree Hill” creator-exec producer Mark Schwahn and fellow EP Joe Davola — an MTV vet.

Both are big music fans — so much so that each episode is named after song or album titles, and each also ends with a musical coda.

“I’ve said from day one we can do more with the right melody and lyrics than we can do with pages and pages of dialogue,” Schwahn notes. “When we find the right music to fill in the blanks with the right melody or sweeping chorus, I think the show is at its best.”

Davola says he believes “TV is the new radio” — and Schwahn adds that, in this case, the show is “beholden to no one. We don’t have a playlist we have to follow.”

That passion dates back to the start of the show, when Davola played an album by Gavin DeGraw for Schwahn. DeGraw’s “I Don’t Wanna Be” was eventually picked as the “One Tree Hill” theme song.

“One Tree Hill” also has helped goose interest in performers such as the Wreckers and Tyler Hilton.

In exchange for a discount in publishing or mastering fees, “One Tree Hill” promotes the songs and artists featured on the show.

“The record companies have to know how valuable that ad card is,” Schwahn says.

Schwahn and Davola take particular delight in breaking new artists, but the show has also featured plenty of tracks from vets like Sheryl Crow. In one coup, Schwahn was able to secure the rights to a Led Zeppelin song after writing an impassioned letter to the band.

So far, there’s one track that’s proved elusive for Schwan: U2’s “One Tree Hill.”

“I’d love to use it in our final coda,” he says. “We’ve put feelers out.”

Of course, U2 doesn’t need the push. But for an artist like Voegele, the exposure is career-changing.

Schwahn says he doesn’t generally add music or cast performers on the show to help their sales, but in the case of Voegele, he made an exception. The artist was brought on to appear in a multiepisode arc, playing a singer-songwriter who winds up being managed by one of the show’s characters.

The boost was immediate — but no surprise to Wilson, who had managed DeGraw back when “One Tree Hill” first launched, and already had experienced the power of the show.

“When I heard that they were looking for a young artist who can sing beautifully and also play the guitar, I sent her to the audition,” Wilson says. “I’ve always been a firm believer of putting artists on shows.”

Now that Voegele has received that exposure, she’s getting plenty of acting offers — but Wilson says the artist is focusing on her music and plans to spend most of this year on tour.

“I hope Kate sells a bunch of records,” Schwahn says. “I think the fans are embracing it because it does fit. We’re rooting for her.”

Follow @Variety on Twitter for breaking news, reviews and more