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People Don’t Buy New Scores

Yesterday I mentioned a podcast about Hollywood insiders that did half an episode about composers and their armies of assistants/ghostwriters.

A corollary: People today don’t buy new scores. This came up in conversation with somebody involved with a record label (I won’t say which one).

You would be shocked that big hit shows—things that are super popular and highly seen—don’t have their soundtrack albums resonate with the film music collecting all.

The fourth edition of an obscure Jerry Goldsmith score from the 1980s? It will sell like gangbusters. But an album from a modern hit show, even one with “watercooler” status? Crickets.

Maybe it’s because the CD buyers don’t really care about the shows? Possibly.

But I think it goes back to the point that the anonymous assistant made in the podcast: it used to take a ton of musical skill to write film music. Now, it doesn’t. It’s mostly a software job. And the “score” is mostly sound design and ambiance.

And that kind of approach may work great in context, but it’s not much fun to listen to.

I used the album cover above to Undone, by Amie Doherty, because this seemed like an exception. This is really well done and “musical,” but subtle for today’s audiences.

Last night I watched the Michael Mann–directed pilot episode to Tokyo Vice. Good show! And I thought, this scoring is really interesting. And it turned out to be by the guys who did Night Sky, Danny Bensi and Saunder Jurriaans, which I also thought was good.

But even if I get this album (TBD), I feel like I’d listen to it once, if that.

It’s just a new and different world out there. And you couldn’t score Tokyo Vice like The Yakuza, or even Thief.

All right, I’m stopping here, because one time in college I made a point to the film theory professor (Jack Cameron, he was great!), “Isn’t it true that movies today have mostly close-ups, because the directors grew up on television?”

And he said, “That may be true, but I try not to beat up on historical change.”

A great lesson that I’ve never forgotten. Thanks, Prof. Cameron!

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Robert Knaus
Robert Knaus
Oct 02, 2022

Give us good modern-day film and TV music, and we'll buy CDs of it.

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