With today’s release of Ludovico Einaudi’s “Cinema,” Universal Music Group confirms its status as one of the world’s most soundtrack-friendly music companies.
Music by Einaudi, the Italian composer and pianist, was featured in recent Oscar winners “Nomadland” and”The Father.” “Cinema” collects 28 pieces featured in those films and such earlier projects as “The Water Diviner,” “The Intouchables” and the miniseries “Doctor Zhivago.”
Each of the last seven Academy Award winners for original score was released or distributed by a UMG label or composed by a UMG artist, according to a spokesperson. UMG artists Jon Batiste and Hildur Guðnadóttir were the composers of “Soul” and “Joker,” respectively. “Grand Budapest Hotel” was on ABKCO, “The Hateful Eight” and “The Shape of Water” on Decca, and “La La Land” and the “Black Panther” song album on Interscope.
Similarly, the last seven Grammy-winning scores, and the last seven BAFTA winners, were also UMG-affiliated. The lists parallel the Oscars but add the BAFTA-winning “A Star Is Born” (Interscope) and the Grammy-winning “Chernobyl” (Deutsche Grammophon).
“There is a culture within the company, a deep respect for the art form,” Dickon Stainer, president and CEO of UMG Global Classics & Jazz and Verve Label Group, tells Variety. “Soundtracks and scores are taken very seriously. It’s an integral part of the company’s view towards artistry, and it’s become even more important now that the screen has taken a bigger part of our daily lives.”
Stainer cites “the special emotive connection between the moving image and music. Composers become different artists when they’re writing for the screen,” he adds. “It’s also a window to a different audience.”
He nods to Max Richter (“Mary Queen of Scots”) and the late Johann Johannsson (“Sicario”) as examples of artists who discovered broad new audiences through their film work. Richter’s “On the Nature of Daylight” was featured prominently in 2016’s “Arrival,” sending listeners to its original source, Deutsche Grammophon’s 2004 classical album “The Blue Notebooks,” to discover more of his music.
Einaudi’s music “conjures images” even without a screen, says Stainer, citing “Nomadland” director Chloe Zhao’s earlier declaration that her lead character Fern seemed to be “walking in parallel” with Einaudi’s music.
UMG says that Einaudi is among the world’s biggest streamed classical artists, claiming a million streams a day in the U.K. alone and over a million YouTube subscribers. Einaudi is quoted as saying “it is always interesting for me to see my music combined with images; it is like rediscovering my music with a different perspective.”
Stainer points to UMG’s recent partnership with leading Italian music company Sugar, whose CAM Sugar label is home to such classic Italian soundtracks as “La Dolce Vita,” “Amarcord,” “Il Postino,” “Malamondo” and more by the likes of Nino Rota, Luis Bacalov and Ennio Morricone. They recently launched a series of “Morricone Segreto” albums to celebrate the late composer’s legacy of innovative scores.
He also cites UMG’s support of female composers beyond recent Oscar-, Emmy- and Grammy winner Guðnadóttir. Another UMG label, Mercury KX, will release composer Nainita Desai’s soundtrack for the Sundance-winning documentary “The Reason I Jump” on June 18. Decca Records Group is also home to composers Isobel Waller-Bridge (“Fleabag”), Amelia Warner (“Wild Mountain Thyme”), Rebecca Dale (“Little Women”) and artists Anoushka Shankar and Sophie Hutchings.
Looking ahead, Stainer says UMG wants “to offer our artists the greatest range of experiences they can have, in order to develop creatively. Our job is to support the developing artist and enable them to challenge themselves creatively.” And, in terms of catalog material, “to unearth the gems, preserve and showcase them.”