Composer gung-ho for ‘Jai Ho’ tour

A.R. Rahman taking 20-city tour this summer

Seventy-seven original scores have qualified for Academy Award consideration, according to the list mailed this week to the 236 voting members of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences’ music branch.

The list contains no real surprises. Four scores that had been considered major contenders were already ruled out: “Black Swan” and “True Grit” as substantially based on previously existing material (Tchaikovsky’s “Swan Lake” and 19th century hymns, respectively) and “The Kids Are All Right” and “The Fighter” as scores “diluted” by the presence of too many songs.

Also missing from the list are Disney’s “Tangled” and Disney-Pixar’s “Toy Story 3,” two animation scores that the studios chose not to enter. They are focusing efforts on getting both into the race for original song.

In an effort to avoid votes for familiar or favorite composers, only film titles, not composer names, are listed. A closer reading reveals that composer James Newton Howard has four films in contention (“Salt,” “The Tourist,” “Love and Other Drugs,” “The Last Airbender”), while Alexandre Desplat has three (“The King’s Speech,” “The Ghost Writer,” “Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 1”).

David Arnold also has three (“The Chronicles of Narnia: The Voyage of the Dawn Treader,” “Made in Dagenham,” “Morning Glory”).

Twelve other composers entered two apiece. Two directors who penned their own scores also entered their musical efforts: Clint Eastwood (“Hereafter”) and Sylvain Chomet (“The Illusionist”).

The Academy earlier announced that 41 songs from 36 different films are competing in the song category. The song bakeoff — in which members will watch all 41 contenders in their original film contexts — is slated for Jan. 6, although branch members may request a DVD for home viewing instead of attending the screening.

Music-branch members — who include composers, songwriters and music editors — have until Jan. 14 to return their ballots.

Nominations will be announced Jan. 25.

Digital dollars music to biz ears

With album sales continuing their steady downward trajectory, and the concert business still smarting from a nightmare summer season, the music sector has been desperate for good news.

That’s why estimated year-end tallies from SoundExchange — the org tasked with collecting revenues for digital music plays, which includes Internet and satellite radio — count as a welcome gift under the tree. The group reported that it expects to deliver $252 million in digital royalties for 2010, a 38% increase over 2009. Furthermore, more artists and labels seem to be plugging in to the service, with the org predicting that 97% of this money will make its way into the correct pockets. (Last year, 16% of royalties went unclaimed.)

The cumulative importance of such royalties is easy to miss, as they often arrive to the sound of a fraction of a penny per play. But when one factors in the sheer volume of online attention certain artists receive, these tiny remunerations start to add up in a big way. For example, Lady Gaga’s videos have recorded more than a billion views on YouTube over the last three years. That’s a lot of pennies.

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