A 'natural extension' for 'Grey' music chiefAs tipped here two weeks ago, Alexandra Patsavas — the influential TV and film music supervisor who has helped put Death Cab for Cutie, Snow Patrol and the Fray on the mainstream map — has inked a deal with Atlantic Records to form a new imprint called Chop Shop Records. The label shares the name of Patsavas' 10-year-old South Pasadena-based firm, Chop Shop Music Supervision.
Album sales are down and companies are downsizing, so a new label might not be the most intuitive business decision. But the Chop Shop deal is proof that good music still sells, the right A&R ears still drive the business, and film and TV has never been a more powerful vehicle to break artists.
Patsavas had been in negotiations with Atlantic president Julie Greenwald since last year. They concocted the label idea at the Coachella music festival.
"It's something we came up with together," Patsavas says. "A label seems like a natural extension of what a music supervisor does. … You can come across things very early, and there have been bands along the way I would have loved to have worked with more closely."
Patsavas plans to hire a label manager and a handful of additional talent scouts and assistants to supplement the efforts of her existing Chop Shop music supervision team of three coordinators.
No signings have been announced, but she is aggressively on the hunt for acts. I saw her at SXSW in Austin taking in quite a few shows, and during a recent trip to New York, she attended nine artist showcases.
"I've always been interested in indie rock, and it's the kind of music I tend to enjoy placing in the shows that I work on," Patsavas says. "(The label) will be an extension of the kinds of artists that have been featured on 'The O.C.' and 'Grey's Anatomy' soundtracks. Many of those artists have been unsigned or signed to small labels."
As for the prospect of landing acts on either the new label or Atlantic in Chop Shop-supervised shows, Patsavas and Atlantic execs recognize the need to separate church and state. But the connection doesn't hurt.
She also is keeping the door open to Chop Shop distributing TV soundtrack albums where and if appropriate.
TV soundtracks enjoyed a boom year in 2006. Sales jumped 19% to more than 27 million units, according to Nielsen SoundScan, led by a string of hits on Walt Disney Records: "High School Musical," "Hannah Montana" and "The Cheetah Girls 2." Soundtrack albums from Patsavas-supervised shows likewise have performed solidly. "Grey's Anatomy Volume 2" — which was nominated for a Grammy, rare for a TV soundtrack — has sold almost 350,000 units. And the six volumes of the "Music From the O.C." soundtrack series have moved more than 1 million copies worldwide.
Of late, "Grey's" has been particularly effective at creating sales momentum for bands by translating TV exposure into downloading activity. Weekly download sales of Snow Patrol's "Chasing Cars" jumped from fewer than 2,000 tracks to 21,000 after it was featured May 15 in the final minutes of the hospital drama's 2006 season finale. Songs from Gary Jules, the Fray, Regina Spektor and Anna Nalick have seen similar bumps after being on the show.
Billboard's Brian Garrity in New York contributed to this column.