Movie Songs

‘Barbie’ Soundtrack Reinvigorated Music in Movies and Reminds Studios ‘How Effective’ a Song Can Be, Thrive Exec Says

April 8, 20247 Mins Read

The success of the “Barbie” soundtrack reshaped the music supervision space and “only serves to remind us how effective music can be as part of a phenomenon,” according to Jason Bentley, Thrive Music president of licensing and soundtracks.

“But that doesn’t happen every day,” the newly instead executive told TheWrap. “There are also surprise hits that build over time and are enduring.”

In February, Thrive, the independent record label specializing in dance and electronic music, announced a new sync division, which included hiring Bentley in his current executive role.

Bentley has strong music supervision credentials including box office hits “The Matrix,” “Tron: Legacy” and “Top Gun: Maverick.” His earliest experience in music supervision for film was “The Matrix,” which he said at the time “didn’t know that it would become this enduring, influential cult favorite.”

“I’ll never forget sitting in a dark editing bay in Venice and I was literally pulling vinyl out of my record box,” he recalled. “I’d pull records out and play them and they responded. They put those records in the movie.”

“The Propellerheads, Rob Dougan ‘Clubbed to Death,’ The Prodigy is in there. I mean these are records that I was just pulling out of my box as a DJ and it was the first example for me of the kind of influence I could have,” Bentley said. “It just validated my whole mindset.”

Bentley also has experience as a radio host, DJ and A&R director, in addition to serving as the music director for NPR affiliate KCRW radio for over a decade, as an A&R executive for Island Records and Maverick Records and as a producer on projects for clients including the Bob Marley estate, Madonna and Depeche Mode.

In his new role at Thrive, Bentley is responsible for the business development of the label in the sync space, pursuing opportunities to advance Thrive’s catalog in film, TV and advertising. Thrive also has experience in the soundtrack space, including contributions for Gaspar Noe’s “Irreversible,” Darren Aronofsky’s “Pi” and Christopher Nolan’s “Memento.”

“My commitment in this role is to make Thrive a home for soundtracks and continue to build out their business in the same space,” Bentley said. Read on for his full Office With a View interview below.

How is your new role at Thrive Music aligned with your previous experience?
Well, I have worked on several soundtracks as a supervisor, as a producer, so it definitely speaks to my interests and my passions and my experience. I’m really coming back into the record side because I’ve been out of it for a minute and have been raising a family for the last couple of years.

What is the state of the soundtrack business? You have a phenomenon like “Barbie” and that only serves to remind us of how effective music can be as part of a phenomenon. But that doesn’t happen every day. There are also surprise hits that build over time and are enduring.

I need to get into the weeds, and I think you have to get in early and you need to read scripts and talk to the people who are packaging deals and talk to studio heads. That’s part of my outreach to the industry, is finding those opportunities that work for labels because we are fairly specific in terms of the land and the genre of what we do. It has to be a project that’s amenable to really forward-leaning, dance and electronic music. So I’ve got my work to do pounding the pavement, but it’s something I enjoy.

You mention “Barbie,” but I’m also wondering about old hits being brought back into the zeitgeist thanks to projects like “Saltburn” or “Anyone But You.” How does that process work?
I would really credit music supervisors and the creative vision there. Often these are the unsung heroes. Just recently was the Guild of Music Supervisors annual awards. I attended, and it was just a reminder of how creative and how important these people are in the process.

It also makes me think of the Kate Bush story with “Stranger Things.” It’s a good example of where there is a great idea that’s allowed to blossom and has support, then you can find such terrific results. To be able to collaborate with the artist and get into the body of the song and sort of make it dramatic in a different way, that’s what I think resonates with people.

How do you feel social media plays into that process?
TikTok and social media in general is the way that people are discovering music. It’s such a radical shift from my background in radio. It’s just so interesting how digital overall and certainly social media has just ended up as the whole process. Here at Thrive, marketing meetings and sitting in on a lot of the discussion is about getting influencers to come on board and support a song. It all feels very grassroots. But if you do it right, you can break out. Obviously, there’s a big battle royale going on with Universal and TikTok, but that’ll play itself out. I’m sure they’ll find a way forward.

What is your process for piecing together a soundtrack? Does the workflow differ depending on the genre of film?
It can. It’s very much about the relationship with the director. If it becomes a process of pitching to a committee, it becomes a lot more difficult. If you can really be on the same page with the person at the helm, you’re in pretty good shape. It’s really serving the story and understanding what needs to support the storyline. It can be very conversational at first, almost therapeutic to gain that insight. And then it’s creating playlists and finding out how your client or your director can really digest this material. Then just talking it through, cutting things to picture, trying a lot of ideas and narrowing it down.

Once you figure out what they’re responding to, you can look into the particulars of who owns the master and the publishing splits and start to get into the weeds of the bureaucratic side, the admin side. Anything is possible, you just work your way through it. You do have to be pretty detail-oriented when you’re looking for a clearance, providing as much information as you can — describing the scene, details of the production, actors, even pages from the script — just to try to get that clearance.

What makes a good soundtrack and how can a soundtrack really impact the success of a film?
I think “Barbie” has certainly answered that question. It really can be an integral part of a film, when it’s done right. I’m curious about the market for soundtracks these days since that’s part of my role here. I wonder for anything short of a “Barbie” phenomenon, how do we do that? How do you find success in the soundtrack space? I don’t have an answer for that yet, but it’s certainly something I’m trying to solve.

This interview has been condensed and edited for length and clarity.

The post ‘Barbie’ Soundtrack Reinvigorated Music in Movies and Reminds Studios ‘How Effective’ a Song Can Be, Thrive Exec Says appeared first on TheWrap.

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