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Soundtrack synergy

This article was corrected on March 28, 1994,. RCA Records senior VP, A&R/staff producer Ron Fair’s name was misspelled in the NARM special report March 18. Ken Kragen’s name also was misspelled in the NARM report.

If performers lined up for the Oscars are any indication, music and film are a match made in heaven. Bruce Springsteen and Neil Young will be doing honors on “Philadelphia,” and Dolly Parton and James Ingram will sing “The Day I Fall in Love” from “Beethoven’s 2nd.” Keith Carradine will stand in for Harry Connick Jr. on “A Wink and a Smile” from “Sleepless in Seattle,” and Janet Jackson will sing “Again” from “Poetic Justice.”

While everyone in the free world knows about “The Bodyguard,” the “Song of the Year” Grammy award also went to a soundtrack-spawned number: the tender “A Whole New World,” sung by Regina Belle and Peabo Bryson and penned by Tim Rice and Alan Mencken for the Disney smash, “Aladdin.”

And, if you think these awards have no effect on further sales, guess again: a recent sales surge just pushed “Bodyguard” over the $ 11 million mark, tying such long-time record holders as “Saturday Night Fever” and “Dirty Dancing.”

RCA, which hasn’t had a blockbuster soundtrack since 1988’s “Dirty Dancing” and its 4 mil-lion-selling sequel, is hoping that “Reality Bites” might hold that next magic ticket. Prospects look good: the soundtrack shot up from the lower quarter of Billboard’s Hot 200 album chart to No. 57 upon the film’s release Feb. 18. It’s currently perched in the top 20.

Starring Winona Ryder, Ethan Hawke and Ben Stiller, who also directed, the most successful single making its way up the charts is Big Mountain’s reggae-tinged version of Peter Frampton’s “Baby, I Love Your Way.” Other new recordings with that alternative appeal come from World Party, the Posies, Lisa Loeb, the film’s own Ethan Hawke and the sole RCA artist Me Phi Me.

Other tracks are by U2, Lenny Kravitz, Crowded House, the Juliana Hatfield 3, Dinosaur Jr. and the Indians, mixed in with such mid-80s memory-lane tracks as Squeeze’s “Tempted” and the Knack’s “My Sharona.” The film was scored by World Party’s Karl Wallinger.

The soundtrack represents new territory for RCA. It’s the first time the label has involved so many other labels — 13 — in a project. The soundtrack was compiled and supervised by Ron Rair, senior VP, A&R/staff producer for RCA records, who says the decision was motivated by the central role of music in the film.

“Music is a big part of the experience of ‘Reality Bites,’ and the director was very much involved in the process. The main rule of thumb was ‘Do what’s right for the movie,’ and, at the same time, keep the level of the songs really high and the quality of the record commercial and powerful,” says Rair.

MTV exposure figured heavily in the marketing campaign, with early play of the Crowded House track “Locked Out” on Alternative Nation and the Ben Stiller-directed “Spin The Bottle” from the Juliana Hatfield 3, which featured principals from the cast.

In addition, there as a huge “Reality Bites” trip giveaway done in conjunction with Universal, where five MTV viewers were flown to the Sundance Film Festival to attend the premiere of the film and meet its stars.

MTV’s Howard Handler likes the arrangement with movie studios. “There’s great programming in it for us and fun opportunities for our audience from a promotional standpoint,” he says.

Hugh Surratt, RCA’s senior director of artist relations, credits the unusually high number of film copies Universal provided very early that RCA utilized for screening/listening parties for key radio industry personnel, providing a major sales push. “Before we even released the soundtrack, we had 20 mostly major market Top 40 stations playing it,” he recalls.

Of the five songs already exposed to the public, look to the Lenny Kravitz track “Spinning Around Over You” to also make an impact at AOR and new-music stations. RCA is paying close attention to the film’s box office receipts as they look to unfold the back end of the album.

If all goes as planned, look for good international sales based on Ryder’s popularity overseas, as well as an added promotional boost if the actress wins an Oscar for “Age of Innocence.”

At the homevideo market, “Reality Bites” will be “the date movie from hell,” according to Surratt, with tie-in retail promotions to enhance its longevity. With all the surplus tracks, the possibility of a second soundtrack and video compilation is also viable.

Soundtracks have done particularly well for Virgin Megastore’s L.A. outlet, which has already expanded its soundtrack section in the 18 months that it’s been open.

Ian Duffell, president of Virgin Retail Group, notes the different demographic that soundtracks often bring in: “With movies spinning off so many good soundtracks these days, it brings people out of the woodwork; ‘Sleepless in Seattle’ was a classic one: people love the film, the music invokes all sorts of memories. They come in to buy it, and they’ll pick up a lot of other music along the way.”

Also at Virgin’s L.A. store, “The Piano” soundtrack was a runaway best-seller over the holidays, bucking the national trend, and the store often offers special soundtrack-related promos, such as added-value video/soundtrack combos, discounts with theatre ticket stubs, etc.

Soundtracks can do wonders for back catalog; “Bohemian Rhapsody” an example. A spate of upcoming alternative artist soundtracks should give retailers more chances to promote soundtracks.

The Warner Bros. pic “With Honors” represents the first soundtrack released by Madonna’s Maverick label.

Soundtrack will lead off with Madonna’s single, “I Remember,” and new songs from Mudhoney and Lindsay Buckingham, with covers from Duran Duran, Belly, The Pretenders, Lyle Lovett and Kristen Hersh.

Columbia’s “Threesome” (said to be “Reality Bites” set in a college dorm by one industry observer) will feature U2, Tears for Fears, Teenage Fanclub, New Order and General Public.

“The Crow,” Brandon Lee’s last pic, has perhaps the heaviest line-up: Stone Temple Pilots, Nine Inch Nails, Jesus and Mary Chain, Helmet and Jane Siberry. All are due this month.

Other soundtracks showing chart action are: “House Party 3,””Gunmen,””In The Name Of The Father,””The Air Up There,””Cool Runnings,””Wayne’s World 2,””Addams Family Values,””8 Seconds,””Blue Chips,””Sugar Hill,””Faraway So Close, “”Carlito’s Way,””Menace II Society,””Sister Act II” and “Mi Vida Loca.”

k.d. lang’s recording of “Even Cowgirls Get the Blues” was also showing promise, but now that the film has been held back, then set for re-release, the record’s future is cloudy. It may go the way of “Last Action Hero,” where the soundtrack outlived the film.

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