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Soundtrack labels look for riches in niches

From 'Dunston' to 'Sadismo,' obscure scores feed fans

Is anyone really interested in music from such obscure films as “Dunston Checks In,” “Sadismo,” “Speed 2: Cruise Control” and the fourth season of TV’s “CHiPs”?

The answer appears to be “yes” — in part because the soundtrack specialty labels are pressing such discs in limited quantities and know their market so well they can predict with a high degree of accuracy what will sell and how many units it’ll move.

“There’s definitely a market for this stuff,” says La-La Land Records president M.V. Gerhard, “anywhere from 1,000 to 3,000 people in the world that are going to want a CD” of almost any title.

“Dunston,” a 1996 comedy about an orangutan, sports music by the late Miles Goodman that, Gerhard says, “seemed like a logical choice” after La-La Land’s success with the same composer’s previously unreleased “Dirty Rotten Scoundrels” score.

The weirdest title may be the Les Baxter score for “Sadismo,” a movie so obscure that Kritzerland label owner Bruce Kimmel, who released the album, hasn’t even seen it.

“The minute I saw the title, it made me laugh,” says Kimmel, who then quotes the tagline for the 1967 fertility-rites-and-torture documentary: “Actually filmed in the dark corners of this sick world!”

The popularity of exotica king Baxter convinced Kimmel to acquire the music, and to authorize his art director to create as lurid a cover as possible.

Social networks such as Facebook make the marketing easier than ever, he says: “You can reach out to those groups; they all have pages.” He’s nearing a 1,000-copy sellout on “Sadismo.”

Don’t discount the popularity of grade-B fantasy- and horror-film music, either. A top seller at Buysoundtrax.com is the double bill of music from the low-budget late-’80s slasher classics “Death Stalker II” and “Chopping Mall,” two late-1980s synthesizer scores by Chuck Cirino.

“People remember these films,” says label owner Ford A. Thaxton. “They grew up with them on latenight cable. And the melody and energy in these scores are better than a lot of what I hear today.”

According to Gerhard, these offbeat scores are now available because “the studios are finally opening up their vaults, so we can go in and license the product. We’re fans, and we want the music to be out there for fans like us.”

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