Are Animation Soundtracks An Untapped Goldmine?

Via: teews666 on deviantArt
Via: teews666 on deviantArt

Originally soundtracks and the music associated with them were considered cast-offs in the animation landscape. Before Snow White, the copyrights and publishing rights were sold off for a cheap sale. Disney’s folly changed all that with its numerous hit songs, and suddenly, the music in animated films became a major cog in the film machine. That trend continues up to today, where every major animated film has a soundtrack available even before the film hits cinema screens. The thing is though, animation is much more than feature films, and it’s in this regard that suggests that animation soundtracks are a bit of an untapped goldmine here in the west.

For Web Series

Web series’ actually lead the way. Many series are created by people who are familiar with the overarching sharing nature of the internet and the fact that influence can come from anywhere and everywhere. Hence the advantage to sharing the music with others. Cartoon Hangover has a Soundcloud page where they post tracks (mostly voices and FX, but theme music too). Given the fact that their series don’t have a lot of music, it’s fair to say that Frederator are probably best to simply give it away.

That’s not to say that others shouldn’t try to make something from their music. Plenty of independent musicians earn a living by using the music as a catalyst to sell other things. Fans are willing to support artists given the right conditions and there is no reason to suggest that music from an animated web series can’t play an integral or standalone role in that respect.

For Shorts

Shorts are a tad trickier than series; the result of sometimes being built around a single song. That does not preclude them from gaining something from the music too. Some shorts use off the shelf music while others use a bespoke song. Still others utilise an actual soundtrack.

In the case of a single song, that could still be sold separately from the film. Selling a whole CD for one song is probably a bit far fetched, but plenty of animators create more than one short, so a compilation is something that could work.

To call out David Oreilly’s The External World, the entire soundtrack of which is available for download starting at just $1. It costs OReilly little to put it up there, but the mutual benefit to himself and fans is enormous. People also aren’t nearly as stingy with their online dollars as you might think:

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 For TV Series

This is the obvious one and something of a sore spot for fans of many shows. The Nickelodeon series’ Avatar: The Last Airbender and Legend of Korra being the most visible examples.

Granted, a large majority of TV shows did not have soundtracks per se; relying instead on interstitial music outside of the main theme. That said, in recent years we’ve seen a dramatic upswing in the quality of animated shows music, often to the point (as in the two series’ above) where they rival traditional live-action shows in terms of quality. Other current examples include Adventure Time with its chiptune music and Gravity Falls with it’s similarly retro score.

Soundtracks and scores for animated TV shows are seen today the same way that they were for animated films before Snow White. They’re leftovers, but with the control-all attitude of many studios, they would rather lock them up than spend the money to make a proper release. A shame really, as I discuss in this post, because the tools available today mean that you can get a soundtrack or score out there for relatively little effort. If you do it right, it’s entirely possible to make some money while you’re at it too.

Note that I am purposely neglecting things like pre-school shows that have long been sold as singalong tapes and books. That’s different; entertainment on a whole different level than pure aural pleasure.

I’m also purposely neglecting anything to do with anime. Japanese studios and networks have known of the value locked up in a show’s music and have endeavored to collaborate with mainstream artists and make sure it gets out there. The simple reason is that in Japan, a hit score can drive people to view the show. Things are not so simple here in the west, but there’s no harm in trying, is there?

Let’s Get Those Animation Soundtracks Out There!

Everyone listens to music, and keeping some of the music that accompanies animated films away from fans only serves to hurt the films themselves. The Avatar scores alone could draw fans into the series, especially since music tends to be more freely available than video.

So consider this post a wish that more music from animated films and shows make it out into the wild for all to enjoy.

Do you agree? What are your favourite shows who’s music isn’t available as an official release? Let us know with a comment!

1 thought on “Are Animation Soundtracks An Untapped Goldmine?”

  1. I’m a little bit off subject, but I think it shows how little most people think about the sound side of film that they use the term soundtrack for both the entire audio part of the film and the music that the film uses. I suggest correcting that by referring to the music part as the soundtrack and the whole as the noisetrack. Personally, I’d like a few soundtracks. I’d like a Legend of Korra one especially.

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