Week Links 23-2013

Another set of week links you should consumer and muse upon.

How we know female led superhero movies are doomed.

Eric Burns-White ponders the declining market for female superheroes and why that is. Here’s the thrilling conclusion:

The Superhero equivalent of Heaven’s Gate failed so utterly that it proved beyond a shadow of a doubt that having a superhero movie with a female lead, regardless of any other factors or any other movie experiences, is entirely nonviable in today’s market.

Which movie is he talking about? You’ll just have to read it to find out.

‘Monsters,’ ‘Despicable Me 2,’ ‘Turbo’: Summer’s Brutal Animation War

I’m sure you may have read this somewhere else but I’ll just add two things:

  1. It perpetuate the notion that animation is a genre of film. You don’t read any stories about the a brutal ‘war’ between superhero films, so you?
  2. Squeezing so many films into just one part of the year further implies that we’re in a bubble.

Legend of Korra Soundtrack: Music as Storyteller

Via: Mike DiMartino
Via: Mike DiMartino

Efforts to get an official release for the The Last Airbender series and its successor have apparently paid off with this announcement. While we continue to call for a release for the former, the latter will see the light of day on July 16th.

I’ve written about soundtracks multiple times (like here and here) and even wrote a detailed post on how to petition for the official Last Airbender release. While it’s a bit confusing as to why Nickelodeon is releasing one for Korra while a complete Airbender on exists is beyond me, but this is almost certainly being done as a test of demand. With hope, the full OST for The Last Airbender will come out soon.

Tweets of the Week

[blackbirdpie url=”https://twitter.com/BravestWarriors/status/343465371854061573″]

shezow ratings

Releasing Soundtracks of Animated Films Using SoundCloud

Soundcloud 800x500_orange

The ongoing media revolution remains a fascinating thing to watch as it unfolds. Not only have we seen revolutions in video (YouTube), but also books (Amazon), shopping (eBay) and even shoes (Zappos)! Today though, we’re going to focus in on music, and specifically soundtracks to animated films and how SoundCloud could be a valuable tool for distributing them.

The Current Situation

Audio and music has been one of the areas that has undergone more upheaval than most. First Napster illustrated that tracks were preferable to albums (for most acts) and secondly the iPod illustrated that people wanted to take a lot of music with them, or at least have access to their entire collection. Lately, the shift has been towards streaming services; essentially ones where instead of buying the music, you subscribe to a service which lets you access it.

Both Spotify and Rdio provide streaming access to their vast libraries (this blogger has opted for the latter given its album-oriented approach as opposed to Spotify’s mass track listings) for about $5/month. Other services such as iTunes and Amazon allow you to buy tracks or albums rather than stream them, although Amazon is facing competition from Google in that regard.

Why Soundtracks Are Important

Soundtracks and scores are enjoyed by many animation fans. Indeed they have formed a significant part of many anime series and films for decades, with a pop song seemingly mandatory for any series or OVA.

Here in the west, that isn’t really the case, Sure, we’ve all seen the novelty albums put out (The Simpsons Sing the Blues seems to come immediately to mind) but actual soundtracks albums and scores seem to be the preserve of feature films only.

That’s unfortunate, because as the Avatar: The Last Airbender and The Legend of Korra series indicate, animated TV shows are perfectly capable of containing significant soundtracks and scores that are enjoyed by fans. The various petitions for an official release of both, perfectly illustrate that demand is out there.

Where SoundCloud Comes In

What is essentially the bone of contention, is that studios often don’t see the benefit to releasing an animated soundtrack officially. Even in Korra’s case, the cost of an official release could be well above what they could ever hope to make back in profit. Distribution isn’t necessarily the problem either. Disney have their soundtracks on both Spotify and Rdio.

SoundCloud is a similar service in so far as it allows listeners to stream music, but where it excels over Spotify and Rdio is in its social features. It permits embedding, sharing and following on a near-seamless level. The key here is that not only can users easily listen to music, they can discover new stuff too!

Not only that, SoundCloud promotes a collaborative community that encourages creators to release their material on the site and to remix others’ work. Even legendary producer Giorgio Moroder has a SoundCloud page where he has posted a sample of Donna Summers’ seminal song “I Need Love” for others to use.

A Theoretical Scenario

The distribution benefits are easy to see, but how could the other benefits play into an animated series or film? Well, simply posting tracks would allow fans to share the ones they like with their friends and followers; that’s simple exposure. That could easily draw in fans who hear the music before they see the animation. Although some would argue that that could never happen, consider the fact that people listen to far more media than watch during the average day; the reason being, naturally enough, that they are working or travelling when viewing isn’t possible.

So exposure is a plus. What else? Well, if you encourage remixing, then that opens up a whole host of new avenues. Theme tunes are an evergreen source of remixes that continually pop up despite most TV shows never releasing tracks at all! There are even remixes of remixes out there, proving that music is not a once-and-done form of artwork. SoundCloud doesn’t discriminate between tracks either, so it’s possible to put things like sound effects and voice tracks up as well. Just imagine if the legendary Hanna-Barbera library was available for all to listen to and play with!

Exposure? Great! Remixes? Superb. Now what? Well, it’s what underpins everything, that is, the connection with fans! The ability to directly communicate and interact with fans will be the engine that drives future content. Until now, it has been a one-way relationship. Sites like YouTube are instigating a two-way model, but too often, studios simply post the content and let the fans discuss it amongst themselves.

For a site like SoundCloud to work properly, interaction between the studio and fans will be necessary. Consider a fan who’s made a kick-ass remix of a track from a studio’s animated show or movie. The studio could easily endorse it somehow or even utilise it in a future episode. The goodwill cost to them would be nothing, but the payoff would do wonders for the creator and other fans.

Its Already In Practice!

cartoon hangover soundcloud

As usual, Frederator is ahead of the pack. Their Cartoon Hangover channel already has a SoundCloud page where lots of music has already been posted. Theme tunes, FX tracks and instrumentals are all available for SoundCloud users to listen to, remix and share as they please.

In the non-musical sense, both Skwigly and Cartoon Brew upload podcasts for the animation community to enjoy and share.

Conclusion

Soundtracks unfortunately occupy the fringes of animation production in terms of revenue. They’re a necessary part of production but far too often cannot be officially sold in a profitable manner (unless of course it’s a large Hollywood production). Lots of TV shows and smaller films have had their soundtracks languish in obscurity when they could be proliferating creativity.

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:

[blackbirdpie url=”https://twitter.com/davidoreilly/status/302765365358903296″]

 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!

How To Petition for An Avatar and Legend of Korra Soundtrack

In what seems to be a regular occurrence over on The Last Airbender subreddit (yes, I am a subscriber), someone has released yet another internet petition for an official soundtrack release for Avatar: The Last Airbender and The Legend of Korra. Now this one has gained a bit more traction that previous ones in that the actual production house, The Track Team, has linked to it. So it has a bit more pedigree than previous attempts, so why does it still fail to stack up? Well, it once again makes the familiar mistakes of such campaigns.

Keep reading this post

The Toy Story 3 Soundtrack: Where Disney Pinches the Pennies and Leaves You Short Changed

I learned yesterday that Disney plans to release the soundtrack to Toy Story 3 as a digital download only. This is not a good development on a number of fronts. Although I’m risking turning this into a gripe blog (which it isn’t!) it is a shame that Disney have decided to go down this route for the sake of saving a few cents.

Admittedly, most music is consumed nowadays in the form of music files rather than physical media. This is fantastic as it cuts out a lot of the cost of producing a record. I have long maintained that mp3 was the best thing to ever happen to the music industry. It set the music free from the restrictive media that are CDs and tapes. Suddenly, you could put your music anywhere and copy and share it easily. No more high-speed dubbing cassettes over at your friends house!

The only downside to mp3 and other lossy formats is that they compromise the quality of the recording. You may not know it, but plenty of audiophiles scoff at the humble CD. The basic reason is that the sampling rate for a CD or any digital medial for that matter, results in a waveform that does not accurately reflect the original analogue wave. In order to do that, you’ll need to dig up some vinyl records, either at your parents house or the lone record shop in your area that’s still open. Despite the apparent shortcomings of the CD, it has proven over the last 30 years to be a suitable successor to the vinyl record for the masses.

As for soundtracks, well they’re normally contain a fair amount of orchestral music. That is, if it really is a soundtrack with actual music from the film and not just one with a bunch of songs relating to the film. I’m looking at you Space Jam!

With natural music, I feel that you can only get the best experience from the best recording. With a CD, our in good shape, unless you know where you can find prerecorded SACDs. By using mp3 files, you are getting shortchanged, even if the music costs less. Don’t even get me started on the DRM they slap on there to stop you doing stuff with the music you bought.

If, like me, you enjoy listening to your music pretty loud, on a nice hi-fi, then you are out of luck. Mp3 sound like shite when you crank the volume up. A CD isn’t nearly as bad. Something along the like of EVE Retrieve from Wall-E need the highest bitrates to sound good. Anything less is in danger of leaving the listener feeling disappointed.