- Share this article on Facebook
- Share this article on Twitter
- Share this article on Email
- Show additional share options
- Share this article on Print
- Share this article on Comment
- Share this article on Whatsapp
- Share this article on Linkedin
- Share this article on Reddit
- Share this article on Pinit
- Share this article on Tumblr
By Ayala Ben-Yehuda, Billboard
Why has Fox’s “Glee” succeeded when so many musical televisionseries have failed? Between the script, the song choices and thecast — as well as production, marketing and Columbia Recordsworking in lock step — there isn’t a weak link, the team behindthe hit show said Friday.
Executives from Fox and Columbia joined the show’s music supervisorP.J. Bloom, cast member Lea Michele and “Glee” music producer AdamAnders at the Hollywood Reporter/Billboard Film & TV MusicConference to discuss what’s driven millions of “Glee” songdownloads and two forthcoming soundtrack volumes.
From the beginning, the strategy for setting up partnerships forthe show was very different. Rather than keeping the pilot asecret, Fox presented it to as many music publishers and recordlabels as it could to get them on board for clearances from theget-go, said 20th Century Fox Television head of music GeoffBywater. Even Journey’s Steve Perry came to watch his band’s iconic”Don’t Stop Believin'” get incorporated into the first episode.
“We haven’t been turned down by one songwriter,” Bywater said.”Maybe one … there’s a reason to be concerned about a new showwhen you’re committing your copyrights to it.” But now that “Glee”is a hit, Bloom said the show is fielding pitches from artists thatdon’t normally allow their music to be used on television.
Lea Michele, a Broadway veteran who plays Rachel Berry, saidadapting to pop and R&B fare for television was “reallyscary.”
“I’m a musical theater performer. I perform live on stage everynight,” said Michele, recalling that while recording Rihanna’s”Take a Bow” she “cursed that day more than I have in my wholelife. (But) once you get past that fear, it’s like (working) amuscle … I rocked out Salt N’ Pepa, people!”
Anders, whose credits include “High School Musical” and “HannahMontana,” called the lightning-quick pace of “Glee” every week a”logistical nightmare” between on-the-fly clearances andrecordings. The cast’s professionalism makes it easier to get itright in a shorter amount of time, says Anders. “You have to nailit.” But for every ingenious mashup — think Beyonce’s “Halo” andKatrina & the Waves’ “Walking on Sunshine” –“there are five orten versions that nobody has ever heard that are hideous.”
Fox senior VP of marketing Laurel Bernard says tracks are carefullychosen for use in show promos. “Sometimes the right song isn’talways available for an out-of-context clearance,” says Bernard.But the reaction to the cast recording of “Don’t Stop Believin'”proved that “when we can get a song in promotion it does pay off inthe back end.”
Bywater said a key evangelist for the show has been Columbia/Epiclabel group chairman Rob Stringer. “He looked at the trailer – notthe pilot, but the trailer – and said, ‘let’s get the attorneys onthe phone,'” recalled Bywater. “How many shows going into theireighth episode have sold 2.5 million downloads? He had thecommitment, the energy, the expertise. It was pure genuineenthusiasm.”
Key to the success of co-creator/director Ryan Murphy’s vision aresong choices — “Don’t Stop Believin’,” “True Colors,” “Lean on Me”– that drive forward the story of a ragtag group of glee-clubgeeks coming into their own, said Columbia Records soundtrackconsultant Glen Brunman. Those songs had to be availableimmediately to the consumer for purchase, a move that the labelsees as an experiment in whether doing so will cannibalize fullsoundtrack sales of “Glee.”
“I think there is an appetite for everyone who loves the show toown a lot more music. You also have a world of physical retail. Noteveryone in the world downloads. We’re about to find out if afterselling a couple million downloads, and by Dec. 8 it could be 4million downloads, whether people will go for the wholepresentation and want to hold it in their hands and have thebooklet.”
Sign up for THR news straight to your inbox every day