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Disney music machine runs at top speed
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By Brian Mansfield, Special for USA TODAY
Gary Marsh has a 9-year-old acquaintance, the daughter of a 5.00% APY S
very good friend, who just might be the most powerful pre-teen "I don't tell her that, but yeah," says Disney Channel Worldwide's president of entertainment. "She has watched every musical artist come through our door. She's watched our pilots, she hears the first cuts of songs, she hears everything before it's made public. DISNEY MUSIC A-LISTERS: Who has the hits?
"And her taste, I'm happy to say, is really spot on." Whether it's the input of Marsh's youthful tastemaker or the streamlined synergy between the Walt Disney Co.'s television, radio and record-label divisions, Disney has turned into a tween-idol hit-making machine that rivals — perhaps exceeds Hilary Duff, Jesse McCartney and Miley Cyrus are — the fabled Brill Building in its heyday. From Lizzie McGuire's major cogs in the Disney music machine.
Hilary Duff to Hannah Montana's Miley Cyrus, the Disney Channel is selling music and launching careers. THESE SONGS HOLD 'PROMISES'
FIND MORE STORIES IN: Hollywood | Walt Disney | Hilary Duff
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| MUSICAL | Disney Channel | Lizzie Mcguire | High School launched TV's first teen-idol craze when he sang I'm Walkin' on The Adventures of Ozzie & "I like to think, in some ways, that we're writing the new Disney songbook," says Steven Vincent, the Disney Channel's executive in charge of music. But where the Disney songbook of His hit wouldn't be out of sync with songs touted today on the Disney Channel, but the previous eras came from the likes of Snow White and Beauty Select one:
same can't be said for the B-side, A Teenager's and the Beast, fare that appealed to kids and adults alike, these Breaking new
new songs almost exclusively target children between 6 and 14. Consumers who don't fall in that age range may have no clue The songs in Disney shows and movies concentrate on four main themes -- or "Brand that the Hannah Montana soundtrack is outselling the Red Hot Chili Peppers' Stadium Arcadium or that the Cheetah Girls are -Express Yourself. -Follow Your Dreams. -Celebrate Your Family. "A lot of people respond to this stuff," says songwriter Jamie Houston, who has worked on music for such Disney Channel The missing ingredient that separates Disney original movies as High School Musical, Jump In! and The from every teen-pop movement of the past? Cheetah Girls, "but a lot of people don't know it exists." Disney music machine runs at top speed - A lot of people got a wake-up call when the High School Musical There's no Then He Kissed Me. No 11-year-old soundtrack outsold every other album in 2006. Sales of nearly 4 Michael Jackson singing I Want You Back. No million units only hint at the impact of such tracks as We're All in I'll Be Loving You (Forever) by New Kids on the Block. Even when Troy and Gabriella gaze This Together and Houston's Breaking Free. dreamily into each other's eyes during High School Musical's Start of Something New, the More than 100 million viewers worldwide have watched High lyrics they sing only vaguely imply romance. School Musical on the Disney Channel. The DVD sold 400,000 "We've proven again and again in our units its first day. The movie has spawned a concert tour, an ice programming and our music that that's not an tour, a Disney Channel sequel set to premiere in August and a essential element to include to create a theatrical feature, Haunted High School Musical, slated for 2008. passionate following," says Gary Marsh, Disney Channel Worldwide president of In addition, some 1,500 high schools have licensed with Disney "You can tell stories and sing songs about things that are over the emotional horizon line Disney expects the High School Musical franchise to contribute for kids," he says. "That's a complete about $100 million to the company's operating income for 2006 disconnect for kids. Also, honestly, it's a and 2007. It's projected eventually to generate $500 million in disconnect for parents. And nothing could be more important for us than maintaining the trust that parents have in Disney.' The thematic options expand when acts from Disney shows start making albums. When High School Musical premiered in January 2006, it drew 'When people like Vanessa Hudgens do their 7.7 million viewers, the most for any Disney Channel telefilm. own record with Hollywood Records, we're allowed to age it up more," says Matthew Three other movies have since surpassed that figure: Return to Gerrard, who wrote and produced Never Halloweentown, The Cheetah Girls 2 and Jump In!, a music- Underestimate a Girl and Let's Dance for heavy film about a double Dutch tournament that premiered to a "Hollywood Records is not the Disney Channel." TV is 'the launch pad'
Disney has spent years perfecting this process. During the late '90s, Disney Channel ran lots of music videos, including some by ex-Mouseketeers Britney Spears, Christina Aguilera and Justin Timberlake's 'N Sync. As those acts, and their lyrical content, matured, the channel decided to develop its own music-oriented programming. Hilary Duff became the first of what Vincent likes to call "The Triple Threat Kids" — young stars who can act and sing and have at least one other talent (or, on Disney's multi-platform drawing board, who have their own TV show, feature film and animated series). Disney used Duff's series, Lizzie McGuire, and a feature film to set the stage for her singing career. Duff's early singles I Can't Wait and Why Not never cracked mainstream radio charts, but they were huge hits for Radio Disney, which had launched in 1996 and now has stations in 53 markets, including New York, Los Angeles and Chicago. "Television is not the end game," Marsh says. "It's the launch pad." The Disney Channel still plays music videos. But these days, says Abbey Konowitch, general manager of Disney-owned Hollywood Records, "the only way videos get played on the Disney Channel is when they're promoting Disney Channel events and Disney Channel properties." Take the example of teen duo Aly & AJ. Hollywood Records chairman Bob Cavallo, who began his career managing the Lovin' Spoonful, signed the sisters and discovered that Aly Michalka had a role on the Disney series Phil of the Future. That, as they say, was the beginning of a beautiful relationship. "We were able to tie Aly and AJ into a Disney Channel movie and have them record Do You Believe in Magic," Konowitch says. "We tied their second single into a Walt Disney picture that the Disney Channel was promoting. Their third single was tied into a picture, and their fourth was their breakthrough song. We built an entire relationship/partnership that was beneficial to all." "Sometimes Hollywood Records brings the act," Cavallo says, "but most of the big events have come from soundtracks that gained the constituency by being part of a television show on the Disney Channel. But it's important to note that it goes both ways." More than just hit songs Disney music machine runs at top speed - The connection with the audience goes much deeper than just hit songs. These young entertainers often portray boy- and girl-next-door characters who live out the tween daydreams: the girl with a secret life as a rock singer, the athlete who discovers an untapped talent for the theater. Then, Disney takes its viewers into the personal lives of actors/singers through such vehicles as its Express Yourself campaign, a series of short clips styled after public-service announcements, in which cast members from Disney shows talk about friendship, growing up and other topics of interest to youth. "That experience connects the audience much more passionately than any sort of stand-alone piece of music on the radio," Marsh says. Sean Ross of Edison Research & Media says: "It's interesting that Disney has kept the genre alive, even as radio cycles in and out of teen pop." He compares Disney's success with the early '60s teen-pop climate. "If you draw a line to the girl groups, it almost goes back to The Bobbettes or Johnny Angel." In the early '60s, New York's Brill Building housed such songwriting teams as Barry Mann and Cynthia Weil and Gerry Goffin and Carole King turned out hits for teen acts. Likewise, Disney has its core group of songwriters — Houston, Matthew Gerrard, Robbie Nevil, Tim James, Antonina Armato and duo Adam Watts and Andy Dodd — with song credits on Disney shows and Hollywood releases. Finding Brill-caliber pop tunes isn't the challenge, says Jon Lind, Hollywood Records' senior vice president of A&R and a songwriter whose credits include Madonna's Crazy for You and Earth, Wind & Fire's Boogie Wonderland. "It's creating songs with a group of people that I'm really comfortable with, who I think can dial it in for each of these different kids who is about to become a recording artist. They have to hang out, then they have to create songs from scratch, either on their own or in collaboration with these young kids. That is providing a much different result than just going out and finding all the songs." These songwriters often also act as producers and mentors, showing the ropes to teens who may have theatrical singing experience but rarely have spent time in a studio. "The environment that the producers and the writers have to create is more than just a record session," Lind says. "It has to be really nurturing. It has to be really safe. And that takes some special skills." "Jon sometimes calls it 'boot camp,' " says Gerrard, who co-wrote the Hannah Montana theme Best of Both Worlds, as well as Kelly Clarkson's Breakaway. "He'll send people to me, and we'll try them out on songs — see how high they can sing, how low they can sing, what's natural in their ability." "It can be challenging," Houston says. "But usually they'll have some sort of acting experience, so you're able to tap into that and help them emote a vibe for a particular song." Gerrard adds, "You figure out the strengths of people, and you write to their strengths. Adults often dismiss pop music aimed at young audiences, but kids have long memories, and the music often has surprisingly strong legs. Which pages in the new Disney songbook are likely to last? "The one I'm absolutely confident of is Breaking Free," says Marsh, reasoning that the High School Musical number "speaks to what kids are going through." Vincent names another Musical song. "We're All in This Together in some ways has become the company's new Small World," he says. That's good news to Nevil, who wrote the song with Gerrard, but it doesn't surprise him: "When we look back at the work we've been doing the last couple of years, I think we're going to realize how much of the soundtrack to a lot of kids' lives we've been a big part of." You must be logged in to leave a comment. Log in | Register Disney music machine runs at top speed - Comments: (1)
PL5700 wrote: 2d 2h ago
it is a shame was disney is doing to music.putting out horrible horrible music to further thier
corporate machine.none of this should be considered good.they have 14 year old girl wearing
heavy makeup and short outfits.what kind of roll model is this really providing? a bad one .with bad
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