Old-time record players where you could listen to 45s and LPs are relics of the past that aren’t dead, but they’re certainly not en vogue. CDs are taking a back seat in popularity, too, as streaming and digital have taken over with popular services like Apple Music, Amazon Music and Spotify.
Record companies today have catalog departments comprised of their collections of non-contemporary songs that include some of the biggest hits of the last several decades, as well as all the duds, unreleased tracks and true obscurities. Some artists may have enjoyed a few hits that can last a career, but haven’t released any new music for a number of years. Catalog departments are now attempting to develop marketing strategies to communicate to newer, young audiences about older music.
Here’s an example. More and more, record companies want to capitalize on the so-called “what-was-that-song?” market of consumers that hear music on a commercial, TV show or movie, like it, and want to listen again. When the song was released doesn’t matter. What’s important is likeability.
Tim Fraser-Harding is the president of global catalog of recorded music at the Warner Music Group.
One Sunday night in 2018 a member of Fraser-Harding’s team heard a 1976 track by the Spinners being used in “Avengers: Infinity War.” By lunchtime the very next day Warner had come up with special digital playlist, a partnership with the movie studio, and a complete marketing strategy around the song.
This tune is about a guy who makes sounds with a rubber band stretched between his toes. Thom Bell, the Spinners’ producer wrote this song for his son with help from his songwriting partner Linda Creed. The boy was large in size, so his schoolmates called him “The Fat Man,” and at first Bell thought of using that for the record title.Bell changed his mind saying, “It was written for big people who were hip, to change the whole idea of a person being large being sloppy, slow.” A dance routine was even choreographed for the song.
The song peaked at #2 for three weeks but couldn’t crack the top spot. That belonged to Rod Stewart and “Tonight’s the Night.”