Music Article

ROCKIN' IN THE REEL WORLD

Soundtrack songs don’t have to be in the movie -- The high cost of creating an album for films

Riddle me this: How is it that the best-selling Batman Forever soundtrack sports 14 Bat-tunes by an illustrious lineup of mostly alternative rockers, but only five of those songs are in the movie? Did Alfred forget to stock the CD changer?

In fact, it was director Joel Schumacher who, even as the Atlantic soundtrack was rolling off the CD presses, jettisoned the pop in favor of Elliot Goldenthal's traditional orchestral score. ''I think we're gonna have to start doing 'Inspired by the Motion Picture' titles,'' says Atlantic president Val Azzoli, floating an accuracy-in-billing idea that came too late for Batman.

The idea that a film might not require a pop soundtrack is — holy heresy! — nearly unthinkable these days; it's the requisite marketing tie-in for the post-Happy Meal set. And with soundtracks increasingly claiming top spots on Billboard's album chart, it's no wonder nearly every major label has appointed a soundtracks VP to represent their interests in the competition that's jacking artist fees way, way up: U2 reportedly got a staggering $500,000 advance for Batman's ''Hold Me, Thrill Me, Kiss Me, Kill Me''; the Offspring nabbed a rumored $250,000 for their remake of the Damned's ''Smash It Up.''

That kind of disbursement is probably worth it in Batman's case, say competing labels, even as they grumble over the new standard setting. Risky million-dollar-or-more price tags for soundtracks that are far less star-studded than Batman are becoming more common, dwarfing the average $300,000 bill for a single-artist album.

Some acts are at least dutiful enough to see the movie before writing their high-priced tracks; U2's ''Hold Me'' is deemed a legitimately film-inspired cut. Plenty of slackers, though, are dusting off old material when a movie studio beckons. ''There is a perception,'' says MCA soundtracks chief Kathy Nelson, ''that you're getting rejects or outtakes, and a lot of times you are. I don't like that. Then again, I don't care if it's an outtake if it's a great song.'' Calling all rockers: Hollywood may be just the place for your next musical garage sale.

Originally posted Jul 14, 1995 Published in issue #283 Jul 14, 1995 Order article reprints