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Warner Bros. Records has hired Robert Kraft in the hopes of reinvigorating its once-strong business in film, television and video game soundtracks.
Kraft was president of Fox Music from 1994 to 2012 and is credited with supervising the music for more than 300 films including Titanic, Moulin Rouge, Romeo + Juliet, Garden State, Walk the Line and Slumdog Millionaire. He’s also worked on soundtracks for Fox shows including 24 and The Simpsons. He was nominated for an Academy Award for “Beautiful Maria of My Soul” for the 1992 film The Mambo Kings and shared a Grammy Award for the soundtrack to the 1992 Disney film The Little Mermaid. He’s also a recording artist who has released four albums.
He will be a consultant in the soundtracks department of Warner Bros. Records and his responsibilities will range from serving artists on the label’s roster in executing soundtrack opportunities to helping the label expand its relationships with film studios, TV production houses and broadcasters.
“Soundtracks are an area that I know and love, and this great opportunity comes at a time of renewed excitement about music for visual media,” says Kraft. “WBR’s legacy includes many landmark soundtracks, from Purple Rain to The Matrix and The Dark Knight, so I’m delighted to help grow the label’s reputation as the preeminent player in the soundtrack arena.”
The soundtrack business isn’t nearly as strong as its heyday in the 1980s, when soundtracks to films like 1984’s Footloose (9 million copies sold), 1987’s Dirty Dancing (11 million) and 1986’s Top Gun (9 million) dominated the album charts. In a digital era where services like iTunes and Spotify allow music fans to customize their own aggregations, the appeal of cinematic curatorship has been on the wane.
Nevertheless, every now and then, a movie creates a merchandisable song collection. Most recently, it’s been Hunger Games. The first film in the trilogy had the first soundtrack to top the charts since the release of Michael Jackson’s This Is It in 2009. The soundtrack to Hunger Games: Catching Fire is currently in the fifth position on the Billboard 200. The next-best-selling soundtrack from the past week was the music from The Best Man Holiday, ranked 23rd overall, just ahead of the perennially popular jazz soundtrack to A Charlie Brown Christmas.
Executives at Warner Bros. Records are aware of the dip but still see the sector as important, not only in terms of sales, but also in the opportunities for exposure that placement in film soundtracks give recording artists.
“Great soundtracks are culturally impactful moments that help both the music and the movie win new fans,” says Cameron Strang, chief executive at the label. “[Kraft’s] instinctive understanding of what makes a powerful soundtrack, combined with his deep knowledge of the creative process and his wide-ranging network of media contacts, will make him an invaluable champion for our artists and their music.”
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