Filmmaker Giving Away Movie Soundtrack For Free To Promote The Movie

from the yet-another-use-of-free-in-a-business-model dept

About a year ago, Mark Cuban had excellent suggestion for helping to promote movies: give away the soundtrack to the movie to everyone who attended the show in the theater. That would help give everyone another reason to pay to go see the movie and provide them something extra. At the same time, it would help promote the musicians involved in the soundtrack. It was such a good idea that, of course, most moviemakers have completely ignored it. But not all. Parker Mason writes in to let us know about Ryan Gielen, an executive producer of a new indie film that’s been getting some buzz at various film festivals, called The Graduates. Gielen read Cuban’s post too — and was so inspired by it that he decided to try to use the suggestion, in a slightly modified fashion. Rather than making you go see the movie first, he’s releasing one free track a week leading up to the release of the movie. Or, if you want to speed things up, you can buy the entire collection of songs… for $0.99… total.

They’re not giving away all the tracks, but at least half of the soundtrack. They worked with a bunch of indie bands for the movie — and most jumped on the idea pretty quickly, recognizing that the more successful the movie was, the more attention they were likely to get. He admits that bigger bands almost certainly wouldn’t go for such a thing (nor would bigger movie studios), but they might be missing out on a lot in fearing the free promotion.

One of the key points Gielen makes is that to get The Graduates attention, they had to do something different because:

We don’t compete exclusively with low-budget films. We compete with everyone. So what do we have to offer our potential audience to set us apart? A great film and a great soundtrack isn’t enough, we need people to know about it.

Of course, it also helps to have good music, which is why the team working on the movie went out to find indie bands that they actually liked, which they felt would really mesh well with the movie and match well with the tastes of the target audience. But, of course, someone will stop by in the comments to explain why such a thing could never work on a bigger scale.

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Comments on “Filmmaker Giving Away Movie Soundtrack For Free To Promote The Movie”

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beckerist (profile) says:

Re: wrong

You’re wrong. I can see this working in all directions. Indy movie scores a track from, say, a platinum selling band. Indy movie then scores at least some of the audience of that band AND the band gets basically “free” advertising (that they may or may not need, certainly doesn’t hurt.)

Now say an indy bands track is thrown on a high cost production. I’ve discovered numerous bands because of this. Hell even TV does it, I’ve found dozens of songs through shows like Scrubs.

The intent of this seems to be in the advertising and that it spans multiple mediums. If either needs a boost, you can use this method to increase the size of the audience you at least market to. This could even apply to MORE mediums. For example: TV, Video Games, even websites like Hulu use this!

So no, you’re wrong. This can work for many situations.

PaulT (profile) says:

Seems a little clunky to me…

Basically, the website for the movie has its own on-line store where you can buy the album. For whatever reason, the prices listed are standard iTunes prices but there’s a code listed in a banner – enter the code at checkout and you get the lot for 99c.

In addition, it’s been announced on the film-maker’s blog that you can get the songs, one per day, via email if you sign up for a mailing list. The film site is here:

The blog entry is here:

This actually sounds counter-intuitive in a number of ways. First of all, the free tracks aren’t mentioned on the film’s site itself, only on the blog, which hides it from anyone who’s actually just browsing (not everyone wants to read the blog for a movie they never heard of, a free song on the other hand…).

Limiting the download to one per day makes sense in some ways, but it seems silly to only do it via email. People who miss the first day will have no way to go back, and some people’s in-boxes may not accept MP3 files. not to mention that we only have the film-maker’s word that it won’t be used for spam – the idea is that we’re being introduced to an unknown film-maker, right? Why should we trust him?

Also, since these are unknown artists, why not cut a deal with their labels if they’re signed or a site like Jamendo if they’re not? Why not take a cut from any sales made by promoting the artists’ albums alongside the movie, since soundtrack albums promote the artists as well as the movie?

So, an A for effort, a D for execution…

Lonnie E. Holder says:

Re: Re:

I have told others before that if you offered to give anyone who asked 50 pounds of gold, eventually you would get complainers…It is too heavy…How will I be able to sell it?

This band is implementing some of the options suggested by Mike many times. Just because their implementation had minor issues takes nothing away from using alternative business models. It will be interesting to hear of their success.

Anon2 says:

Re: Re:

PaulT, I think you’re trying a bit too hard to be critical. For one thing, the blog is part of the film’s site, or at least it’s linked right on the film’s home page, and it’s touted on the “About” page. No, he’s not going out of his way on the main website to promote the free tracks, but anyone who is interested in the film enough to check out the blog will quickly learn about it, and I’m sure it’s getting attention just by word-of-mouth as well. The bands might be announcing this to their fans as well (I haven’t checked their sites and facebook pages, so I don’t know).

Re: email, while there may be other, better ways to deliver the free content, requiring people to either be on, or sign up for, the email list is incredibly common, especially among artists giving away free content. It’s how they build a loyal following, and if you’re too distrustful to sign up, I’m not sure why you think you’re entitled to the free content anyway. Unknown or relatively unknown bands to it all the time, for obvious reasons. An indie film producer is no different, so far as I’m concerned anyway.

As far as cutting a deal with the artists, and promoting the bands’ albums, I’m not sure why the filmmaker would do that, and in any event whatever cut he might take from pushing the bands’ albums would come out of the bands’ pockets (and as you’re no doubt well-aware the margins on sales of albums are already super-thin). If that was something the bands wanted, perhaps they could have negotiated for it to be part of the licensing agreement; but I suspect most were thrilled just to get whatever licensing fee they got plus the exposure the film could get them if it does well.

The only disappointing thing I found about the site was that the bands’ names on the music page are not links to their respective websites or facebook pages.

PaulT (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:

Fair comments. I’m just trying to think of this from a general point of view. The idea is good, but I can think of numerous situations where people would be put off from even trying the music out. That doesn’t seem sensible if the aim is to get as many people as possible to want to see the film. Yeah, other avenues are probably being explored, I just don’t think this one’s being used effectively.

“if you’re too distrustful to sign up, I’m not sure why you think you’re entitled to the free content anyway”

Accepting a free gift should not involve opening your email box up to spam. I can understand why the address is asked for, but an email-only method of getting the music seems a little odd. A daily update combined with an optional mailing list would be better. Email just seems an odd way to let people get free music, especially as it’s not clear whether the emails will have attachments or just links to downloads (I assume the latter but who knows?).

As for the artists/album deals comment, well I was really just musing there. My point was that it would cost nothing to at least link to those artists’ websites or albums, and if one of them happened to take off later, references back to the movie would help DVD sales. If those artists did hit big following their exposure in the movie, it could help get cheap licensing deals for the next movie, etc. But, the way it’s set up now, nobody’s going to know whether the movie was what sold the artists or not.

Ryan Gielen (user link) says:

the post/the giveaway

Hi all! Mike, thanks for posting this.

A quick update: we are definitely implementing this in a clunky way right now, PaulT, I completely agree. We started this program four months in advance of the film so we could test it out and feel our way around, so we haven’t really been advertising this or pushing it.

Based on the great feedback from this site, a few others, and from certain segments of our mailing list (who we asked for feedback/thoughts on the new campaigns), we’re coming out with a brand new and final soundtrack promotion, that is a variation from the promo mentioned above. Hopefully it will be less clunky, and we’ll work to implement it in a unified, clear fashion.

We’re going to give away 1,000,000 soundtracks, in their entirety between now and when the film comes out in May. We’ve signed with a couple sponsors who will individually be giving away up to 100,000 and 50,000 respectively, and we’ll continue to seek out and work with partners we feel would be a good fit for the content of the film and soundtrack.

In short, we want to step out of the middle-ground of a sort-of-free-giveaway and just go for it. But we’re going to wait to make an announcement and really advertise this until we have the promotion clearly and consistently presented across all our sites and pages.

In the meantime, please feel free to send/post more feedback, we love this stuff. Also, if you’d like to download the entire soundtrack, go ahead and use our generic code for free downloads: GOGRADS.

If you already signed up for weekly emails with MP3’s, we’ll still send those (we’ve had a couple thousand people sign up, so we’ll follow through as to not confuse anyone).

Thanks again!
Ryan Gielen
Exec Prod
The Graduates

hegemon13 says:

Another example

Select tracks from “Repo! The Genetic Opera” were available at the film’s Web site prior to the theatrical release and road tour. It was quite brilliant because by the time the road tour came to my city, just about everyone at the theater was singing the songs before, during, and after the movie. The songs were at a somewhat hidden section of the site, revealed in a link in the forums, which only enhanced the feeling of being an “insider.” By releasing the songs for free, they promoted the movie, promoted the soundtrack, and increased the value of attending one of the scarce theatrical showings.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re:

I do have a problem with consumers deciding that it should be free for the artist or the business.

That’s great. I have a problem with the government sponsoring monopolies.

See how easy that is? It works both ways. There’s a negative to current copyright law, and there would be negatives if it were eliminated. That’s why there’s a debate at all. Communication methods have changed and the laws may not serve the people (artists and consumers) as they were intended.

Mike (profile) says:

Re: Re:

But it doesn’t or shouldn’t go both ways. If someone decides that they don’t want their content out there free, that is their choice. Sure, they may fail, they may miss increased revenue, but that is their right.

That is their right *solely* because of a gov’t granted monopoly. What you say above is like the sugar plantation owner saying during the age of sugar monopolies that “If we don’t want competition, that is my choice.”

Lonnie E. Holder says:

Re: Re: Re:


I have seen some people comment that if copyright were to go away completely (extremely unlikely, as you know), then companies would switch to contracts to enforce their rights. You can imagine this: In order to purchase a book you have to sign a contract stating that you will not permit others to copy the book. Then if you permitted copying you would be in violation of contract law instead of copyright law.

There are copyright monopolies and then there are contract monopolies. The first can be legislated away. The second cannot.

Mike (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re: Re:

You can imagine this: In order to purchase a book you have to sign a contract stating that you will not permit others to copy the book. Then if you permitted copying you would be in violation of contract law instead of copyright law.

Um, no, I can’t imagine that, because any bookseller stupid enough to do that will find that he sells fewer books, and the practice will disappear quite quickly.

Lonnie E. Holder says:

Re: Re: Re:2 Re:

Perhaps…but if everyone were to do it… You can raise an eyebrow and tell yourself that it would not happen, but I have seen this conversation elsewhere. The topic was elimination of copyright. The answer was that if copyright was eliminated that all copyrighted materials would have contractual obligations that made it illegal to copy or permit anyone to copy a copyrighted work…and the conversation was quite serious.

While you may pooh pooh this possibility, considering what the RIAA has done in the past and continues to do, do you not see how they might well consider contracts a suitable alternative?


This movie sounds like it sucks a big one. I mean, if the movie’s c00l then why would the d00des that made it be begging everyone to see their movie by offering all sorts of downloadable songs of bands that you wouldn’t wanna hear in the first place. And, .99 cents for the entire soundtrack? That’s prolly 2 much money. They should pay me. is probably too much money. If I know anything about anything, I’m thinking these herbs would be better off paying US to watch their st00pit film. PWNed!

Wizard6969 says:

The doctor is in the house! Thanks for breaking up this love fest. Everyone posting anything remotely favorable is oviously associated with the film. Indie films suck.


~|~May hobbits sl33p while goblins Pl0t~|~

Jake says:

movie looks lame

How you can tell an Indy movie sucks.

1. The actors give you douche chills cuz they’re TRYING SOOO HARD TO BE FUNNY

2. They’re trying to sell all sorts of crap when everyone knows a good indie makes good by word of mouth based on the quality of the filmmaking, I don’t remember Clerks, Pie or El Mariachi selling trinkets to get people interested, I remember them being awesome movies.

3. The Director is reading/posting on this message board.

4. The fact that music, not some trailer or some clip is the spreahead of this promotional effort says that the music is waaay better than the movie or they’re be pushing said trailer said film clip, not the indie bands in their moooovie.

5. Upper middle class suburban douchebags that think they’re artists and everything they do is funny. Go to law school morons.

Jake's Subconscious says:

Being a barista is so lonely. When will someone realize what a precious snowflake I am. Someday I’m going to sell my art and its truth will burn through the souls of… first I have to make some art. But when I do, its truth will burn through the souls of all these fake artists who actually make stuff. Next year, on my 25th birthday, I’m gonna make that art, and I’m gonna make it so awesome. All these fake artists who have been making and selling stuff for years will realize that true artists are the tortured souls who post messages on TechDirt… How come nobody visits my blog? Should I attach my real name to this comment? Would that count as my first artistic endeavor? No I should stay anonymous. Only fake artists use their real name. Real artists hide behind anonymity. Like Van Gogh, or Radiohead.

…god, I hate myself.

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