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Where Musicals and Jingles Collide...

In the last year, we've seen a Queen and Elton John biopic emerge with an Elvis Presley picture on the way under Baz Luhrmann. Besides being a timely tribute, it seems that this is the latest and greatest way to give records another spin. It's great if the music biopic can make money in a standalone capacity, but the spin-off effect of all the related film marketing probably boosts sales and royalties two-fold. The Lego Movie demonstrated that you can create a legitimate film experience with positive effects and in the wake of Bohemian Rhapsody and Rocketman, it seems it can be a win-win for everyone.

Where Musicals and Jingles Collide

The digital revolution means that a performing artist's entire catalogue of music is available to the masses almost immediately. You don't have to own a CD player, buy an MP3 album or attend a concert to hear their music anymore. While the new streaming model has undermined the music industry, giving new and old fans the ability to deep dive into their favourite band's entire backlog of music means everything is as good as brand new. The Beatles, arguably the greatest band of all-time, may have some of the most easily recognisable tracks on the planet but they're also enjoying the showcase as one generation introduces them to the next. To keep the stone rolling, music artists have to keep reminding people about their music, which involves reunion tours, publicity stunts, TV appearances and of course, movies.

All of these films, including Across the Universe and now Yesterday, create their own soundtrack by blending or relying on the actor's voices. This bypasses expensive licensing issues, creates an entirely new product and makes fans long for the original recording. Across the Universe was a psychedelic tour of the music of The Beatles, creating a musical platform for baby boomers to reconnect and for their offspring to connect. Artful, immersive and capturing the spirit of the times, it made a big and lasting impression, possibly stoking the embers of die hard and peripheral fans enough to buy or demand more Beatles. Yesterday is similar but instead takes a high concept story to connect with more heart, tracking a struggling musician who wakes up after an accident to discover a world where things like The Beatles and Coke have never existed.

The result is leveraging a pre-existing fan base much like the Marvel universe has done for its superheroes, but instead channeling fans back to the music instead of comics, merchandise and films. The music industry desperately needs reinvention in a more visual-driven age and while there are pioneers like Billy Corgan, who has truly embraced the digital age by creating more visually-enticing mediums for the music of his band, The Smashing Pumpkins, there's still no new standard. This new strategy of creating a tribute film is fresh, gets radio station play lists more in tune with upcoming releases, captures the imagination of lifelong fans and revitalises music sales whether in-store, online or streaming. In fact, it's difficult to prove but it did seem like Deezer were adding Rocketman into their Flow play list more often than any other song ahead of the film's global release.

Thankfully, the glut of music films based on popular recording artists has been credible and strong, not simply serving as a cheesy marketing gimmick but delivering on the promise of entertainment without leaning too heavily on the music. You could argue that there's even a market for artists to launch their albums by way of film if you think back to John Carney's influential music-driven romance drama, Once. If they're able to keep the standard high, no one's complaining. It's when associated films start running out of good excuses to showcase the music that we'll start to see a drop off. Let's hope that day never comes...