CBS Shows Serve New Purpose: Selling CBS Music

TV Soundtracks Help Promote Revived Record Label's Artists

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NEW YORK (AdAge.com) -- You've seen the show, so read the book, watch the movie and buy the T-shirt. That's one of the hoariest come-ons in the marketing industry, but it still gets used because it underscores a relative truism: Consumers tend to get more excited about goods and services if they've appeared in a piece of video content.
Los Angeles-based recording artist Karmina, above, wrote the theme song for CBS's recently-pulled romantic comedy 'The Ex List.'
Los Angeles-based recording artist Karmina, above, wrote the theme song for CBS's recently-pulled romantic comedy 'The Ex List.'

CBS, one of the leading purveyors of video, has been using one of its programs to get the word out about a singer on its fledging record label. "Find You," a tune by Los Angeles-based recording artist Karmina, was named the theme song for "The Ex List," a romantic comedy that CBS just took off its schedule.

Theme songs evolve
While the program's hiatus doesn't spell great things for its ability to promote the song going forward, it does speak to the integral role played by opening montages and theme songs in TV shows. Those elements used to be de rigueur; producers placed notable emphasis on showcasing the actors, producers and even the writers of long-running programs. These days, the time allotted to such elements is viewed as frivolous, particularly as media companies see other uses for those precious moments, including slotting in additional advertising.

"The whole main title business has changed a lot in the last couple of years. It's now a much shorter, pithier intro to the show, and the song has got to very quickly give some sense of the color the show and be catchy fast," said Jonathan Levin, executive producer of "The Ex List." "Everybody's mantra is 'Don't let the eyeballs leave.' It's come to the point where you're worried about any dull moment and whether it will cost you audience," he added.

Corporate synergy may be one reason for the appearance of "Find You." Finding a theme song was not the first thing on people's minds in the weeks leading up to the program's premiere, Mr. Levin said. Karmina had three versions of the same song, and executives were considering one of those versions as well as a song from another artist, he said. In the end, "It went through a process where the studio, the network and the executive producers, of which I'm one, argued about which one best captures the tone of the show and would be most appealing to a younger female demographic, which we hope the show attracts. I think the deciding vote was the network's," he said.

Looking to hook viewers
Landing a song on a popular TV show is growing more competitive, particularly as programs such as ABC's "Grey's Anatomy" and CW's "Gossip Girl" begin to look for specific songs to play against particular scenes and story developments. "Everybody is getting a lot pickier in this day and age," said Julianne Hintz, co-owner of Los Angeles music-marketing firm Viva La Rock. "It makes a lot of sense for networks to want to start their own labels, just so they have total control from day one. They can find artists that fit the look and feel of the show, and they can go out and shop for artists that fit their message."

Using its network and other media assets to promote its artists was one of the more attractive propositions when CBS announced the revival of CBS Records in 2006. The label was first established in 1938, and was home to musicians such as Aerosmith, Tony Bennett, Miles Davis, Bob Dylan, Earth, Wind & Fire, Billie Holiday, Billy Joel, Frank Sinatra, Bruce Springsteen and Barbra Streisand. In 1988, CBS Records was acquired by Sony, and a few years later, was integrated into Sony Music Entertainment.

Now, CBS has been trying to run a less wide-scale version of the label, and has used its entertainment properties to spark awareness of its artists' songs. Singer-songwriter Will Dailey was signed to the label, and his song "Grand Opening" was used in an episode of "Jericho," for example. Another group on the label, Senor Happy, had a song appear in an episode of "Ghost Whisperer."
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