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Tirade of the Week


5.16.99

May the Score Be With You


I have in my possession a press pamphlet from Sony Classical about - what else? - the PHANTOM MENACE soundtrack album. (And why is everyone calling it STAR WARS EPISODE I? Was EMPIRE STRIKES BACK called STAR WARS EPISODE 5? No. I'm callin' it PHANTOM MENACE.) The pamphlet is obviously geared towards retail music stores, so I have no idea why I got it, but I'm glad I did. It's just one more example of what Newsweek's cover blurb called "the Marketing Machine."

Herewith, the press release in its unintentionally funny entirety, with snarky red bracketed comments by Yr. Humble Scribe. Some of the news is outdated by now, but it's so appallingly detailed as to Sony Classical's part in the machine, and so nakedly devoted to how much moola STAR WARS has made so far (and how much it will make), that I thought anti-Lucasheads (as well as anti-consumerists) might get a kick out of it. It's doubly funny because, as Entertainment Weekly reported, the soundtrack is among the top topics fans are bitching about, since two of the tracks' titles dime on a major plot point...


THE FORCE IS BACK...
...AND THE MUSIC IS STRONG WITH THIS ONE.
[oh please]

Original Motion Picture Soundtrack
STAR WARS EPISODE I - THE PHANTOM MENACE
Music composed and conducted by JOHN WILLIAMS
Includes Exclusive Fold-Out CD Booklet Featuring a Montage of Images From the Film
[yes, the same stills we've been seeing in every magazine for the past month]

"Once again, John Williams has exceeded my expectations and produced a lavish, rich, moving and thrilling score. Every fan of STAR WARS - and of great music - is in his debt."
- George Lucas

[No, every fan of STAR WARS is in Kurosawa's debt, and every fan of STAR WARS music is in Stravinsky's, Aaron Copland's, and Wagner's debt.]


OVERVIEW

STAR WARS™ EPISODE I - THE PHANTOM MENACE™
hits theaters nationally on May 19, with an original soundtrack album from Academy Award-winning composer John Williams. Since the first film in the series was released in 1977, STAR WARS has become the most popular film series in history, and with product sales at the $4.5 billion mark it's the force to be reckoned with at retail. [Get it? "Force to be reckoned with"? Ah ha ha ha! I guess "midi-chlorians to be reckoned with" just didn't have the same ring.] Unique in its ability to cross gender and generational lines, STAR WARS is the #1 film-based merchandising program in history. [There it is, folks, exposed in its nakedness: not "movie series," not "saga," but merchandising program.] The soundtrack albums have been - and will continue to be - a key part of that phenomenon.

John Williams has crafted an awesome new score. [Totally awesome, dude.] Drawing upon those best-selling signature themes [i.e. cannibalizing himself], Williams and the London Symphony Orchestra have created a new, yet familiar, musical galaxy that will help movie fans relive the adventure again and again, long after the credits have rolled. [I can imagine no worse fate.] Sony Classical is ready to go with an extensive marketing and promotional campaign that supports this historic musical event on all fronts. [Historic musical event? No. The first performance of Stravinsky's "Rite of Spring" was an historic musical event. This is a fuckin' soundtrack album.]


SELLING POINTS

This is the only official soundtrack album to STAR WARS: EPISODE I - THE PHANTOM MENACE, featuring an all-new score by legendary film composer John Williams.
[Yes, since there are so many unofficial bootleg PHANTOM MENACE soundtracks selling like hotcakes on the street.]

Each of the previous STAR WARS soundtrack albums have been platinum-plus sellers, continuing to move at retail long after their initial release. [So did New Kids on the Block; what's your point?]

Williams won a Grammy Award and the third of his five Academy Awards for his original score for STAR WARS, and recieved [sic] nominations for his scores for THE EMPIRE STRIKES BACK and RETURN OF THE JEDI.

Recorded at the famous Abbey Road Studios in London, the music of STAR WARS: EPISODE I is performed by The London Symphony Orchestra with Williams conducting - the same team that recorded Williams' original STAR WARS score 22 years ago. [The musicians have all been sitting around playing Yahtzee in the meantime.]

With liner notes by Williams and George Lucas, plus an exclusive fold-out CD booklet featuring a montage of images from the film, the CD package will be a must-have for fans of the first STAR WARS movies as well as for the next generation of fans, who now consider soundtrack albums a key part of their movie-going experience. [They do? Funny, these days a soundtrack is released well before the movie - as was the PHANTOM MENACE soundtrack - so how could it be a key part of a moviegoing experience we haven't had yet?]


RADIO

APRIL 20th
is the Add Date at radio for the first album single "Duel of the Fates" - a powerhouse of electrifying choral and orchestral sound that will give the music of STAR WARS: EPISODE I a dramatic national bow. [Did anyone actually hear this electrifying powerhouse on the radio? I didn't.]

Columbia Records National Promotion team is working closely with Sony Classical to spearhead the radio campaign and maximize exposure across all markets. [See above]

"Duel of the Fates" will be serviced to Top 40, Hot AC, Rhythm Crossover, Urban, Classical, NPR/Non-Comm, News/Talk, and Consultant/indies and trade stations. [Urban? Sandwiched between Puff Daddy and Eminem, one assumes.]

Radio promotions will be coordinated in all top 50 Soundscan markets, with attention focused on Top 40 morning and afternoon drive programs. [Yes, drive programs so you can't escape it even in your car.]

The full soundtrack album will be worked in a full release promotion to college, public radio, adult standards, classical, and soundtrack specialty programs. [And I'm sure they appreciated it, too.]


VIDEO

Lucasfilm has specially edited a STAR WARS: EPISODE I "Duel of the Fates" music video to promote the soundtrack album.
[I hope it was better than the "Lapti Nek" video from RETURN OF THE JEDI.]

Sony Classical is working in tandem with Columbia Records video and promotional teams to maximize exposure across all markets and video media. [This is as good a time as any to point out that the STAR WARS soundtrack album sold very well without all this.]

Columbia Records plans on placing the music video into rotation at MTV and VH1, with the national broadcast premiere slated for May 3. [MTV? Finally, George Lucas rubs elbows with Hype Williams.]

The "Duel of the Fates" music video will be serviced to national mainstream music video formats and nationally syndicated and regional video programs. [Where it was probably passed around the office and never aired.]


P.O.P.

Add date for instore materials is MAY 3. Sony Classical is creating the following items for maximum explosure
[sic] at retail:
- 1x2 Poster perfed with Album Flat
- Counter Bin
- Window Cling
- Self-Standing Product Bin holding 40 CDs. Bin is a life-size replica of a key character from STAR WARS: EPISODE I
- 2x3 Poster - Movie Key Art
- Bin Header Card

[I was in a record store today and didn't see any of this shit - of course, it wasn't a chain store...]


CONSUMER ADVERTISING

Consumer ad campaign is in development for post-theatrical release, and includes major national print ads as well as television in key markets.

The official movie magazine for STAR WARS: EPISODE I hits newstands [sic] on May 19, and includes a full color soundtrack ad plus editorial content about the music. [No, editorial content is editorial content. The stuff in the official movie magazine is a promo piece. Let's get our journalese straight.]


PRESS

The soundtrack has already become a key part of the STAR WARS: EPISODE I story. To date, Access Hollywood, CNN, Entertainment Weekly, USA Today, LA Times and many more have covered the soundtrack story.
[The "soundtrack story"?? What "soundtrack story"? "Yes, children, gather around and hear the saga of the soundtrack." What is this, a legend? It's a fucking soundtrack album.]

Look for additional coverage closer to the film's release date on E!, Access Hollywood, Entertainment Tonight, People, Newsweek, NPR Morning Edition, Parade, Time and many more. [Where the only reason they ran anything about the soundtrack was as an excuse to run clips from the movie, and maybe footage of John Williams waving his arms around.]


TELEVISION

A July national broadcast of AN EVENING AT THE POPS on PBS will feature special guest John Williams conducting the music of STAR WARS: EPISODE I.
[So PBS is in on it too. Where's Oliver Stone when you need him?]


GRASSROOTS

A grassroots mailing to over 400 community and city orchestras around the country in April will encourage programmers to include performances of music from STAR WARS: EPISODE I as part of their regular summer Pops concerts.
[Yeah, all you bandleaders, forget Mozart - spend your budget money on "Duel of the Fates" sheet music instead.] These mailings will include information on the availability of sheet music, ordering information, and music samples.

FAN CLUB

Sony Classical will be a sponsor of A WORLD OF STAR WARS CELEBRATION event in Denver
[this already happened, it was Dweeb Central], where thousands of STAR WARS fans will converge to celebrate the impending film release. Fans will experience an exclusive preview of the new single with an introduction on film from John Williams [who, like Lucas and most of the film's stars, couldn't be bothered to show up in person].

Sony Classical is working closely with the STAR WARS fan club and magazine to promote the soundtrack album to this important core audience [i.e., dorks who'll buy a bag of dog shit if it's a PHANTOM MENACE bag].


WEB SITE

The Sony Classical STAR WARS: EPISODE I soundtrack supersite will be a major priority and will include information about the soundtrack as well as brief music clips and promotional information and materials.
[Once again: the first STAR WARS soundtrack managed very well without a web site.]

Sony Classical is working closely with Lucasfilm to promote the soundtrack on the official STAR WARS website www.starwars.com.


...Frightening as well as funny. Sony Classical shook loose $5 million for the precious privilege of having John Williams' "awesome, stirring" rehash music on their label. God knows how much more they're blowing on this mega-campaign, and they're cheerfully directing retailers to the official STAR WARS site, thus ensuring the movie even more free publicity. Entertainment Weekly gave the album an A- (a better grade than they gave the movie itself), so it's working.

And I guarantee you that every other company in bed with Lucasfilm (Hasbro, Lego, Ballantine Books, Pepsi, etc) has sent similar releases to every retail store, supermarket, fast-food joint, whorehouse, and shithouse in the country. Further proof, if any were needed, that George Lucas doesn't give a good goddamn about mythology or making entertainment for young minds, and he doesn't give a good goddamn about you. All George Lucas gives a good goddamn about is the contents of your wallet.

I mean, really, how much money does one man need?