Mmmmm, soundtrack: 'Simpsons' team effort

By Tamara Conniff
The traditional score soundtrack is dead. Sort of. What it desperately needs is reinvention. Fox Music president Robert Kraft, award-winning composer Hans Zimmer, Extreme Music and the gurus behind "The Simpsons" brand are trying to do just that.

The question is: If consumers aren't into little shiny round discs anymore, what will they buy? Digital downloads? Sure, especially if it's Green Day's version of the "Simpsons" theme. A digital score album? Perhaps. A very cool limited-edition Homer pink doughnut clamshell case with the score CD to "The Simpsons Movie" inside. Why not?

"We really wanted to think outside of the box," Kraft says. " 'The Simpsons Movie' was a perfect vehicle to try a new approach."

The idea largely was the brainchild of Kraft and Zimmer, who scored the film, which hits U.S. theaters July 27 via 20th Century Fox. "Hans has a great relationship with Extreme Music," Kraft says. "They are known for their creative packaging. The model of handing over a soundtrack or score to a traditional label and then hoping it does well is changing. This is a coordinated marketing effort of behalf of Extreme, the studio and Warner Bros. Records."

For the first time a film's music will be simultaneously released by three companies. On July 24, Warner Bros. Records will put out the Green Day single (the band appears in the film, and crazy things happen, but that's all I'm going to say because I don't want to ruin the surprise). Fox Music will make a digital score album available through its Web site and other outlets. And Extreme Music, usually known for its vast production music library, will release 25,000 pink doughnut cases to such specialty retailers as Best Buy, Circuit City, Wal-Mart and Barnes & Noble. Just in case there are some traditionalists left, jewel-cased CDs also will be available.

*****

BMI knows how to throw a party. Kara DioGuardi and Sean Garrett shared songwriter of the year honors at the BMI 55th annual Pop Awards last week. Onstage, DioGuardi said to Garrett, "Does this mean you will finally return my calls, and can we write together now?" He laughed, hugged DioGuardi and replied, "Yes, anytime!"

The Bee Gees were honored as BMI Pop Icons for their "unique and indelible influence on generations of musicmakers." The audience was visibly emotional (yes, with Kleenex) when Robin and Barry Gibb took the stage -- joined by brother Maurice's widow Yvonne -- to accept the awards. An all-star tribute followed, with Katharine McPhee performing "Immortality" and Kelly Rowland singing "Emotion." But it was Bebe Winans singing a medley of "Nights on Broadway" and "How Deep Is Your Love" that stole the show and brought the crowd, including the brothers Gibb, to their feet. Robin Gibb is working on quite a few extraordinary projects; more on that later.

*****

It has been a stellar week for Warner Music Group, with four albums in the Billboard top 10 including the biggest debut of the year, Linkin Park's "Minutes to Midnight," which sold 623,000 units, according to Nielsen SoundScan. It also set the record for the most digital albums sold in one week at 84,000, beating Justin Timberlake's record set last year by close to 20,000 units.

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