LOST OUT! Movie Soundtracks: An Untapped Area In Ghanaian Films

By Arnold Asamoah-Baidoo

First, there was some hoopla over some songs of Shatta Wale featuring in the Netflix’s Spanish movie, Black Beach and just last week, Eddie Murphy’s Coming2America made headlines after its release.

Among the many narratives that shrouded the release of the sequel to the 1988 original movie, was the soundtrack, music score and appearances of Nigerian acts, Davido, who appeared both in the movie and on the movie soundtrack and Burna Boy, who also got featured on the soundtrack.

The chatter brings to mind a zone in Ghanaian filmmaking that has not been explored and exploited; movie soundtracks. Also, Ghanaian artistes are yet to get a grasp on how to engineer ways of getting their music on soundtracks of movies.

On the Coming2America soundtrack, five African artistes were listed; South Africa’s Solomon Linda and Mi Casa as well as Nigerians, Burna Boy, Davido, Tekno and Tiwa Savage.

What is Movie Soundtracks?

A film soundtrack is a selection of recorded songs that accompany a film. Also known as an original soundtrack (OST), this musical selection can include original songs or pre-existing songs that played during the film or were specifically recorded for the film. A soundtrack is also known as an original soundtrack (OST).

The soundtrack may feature music that was not recorded for the film but fits its overall mood and tone. Soundtracks may also feature vocal snippets of dialogue from specific moments in the film.

A Fallow Market

It is mind-boggling how Ghanaian filmmakers over the years have taken inspiration from the West, from concepts to scripting to production techniques but have missed out the market of soundtracks.

The well-known route for marketing of movies has always been theatre or cinemas first, then released as DVDs, video cassettes and laserdiscs for purchase and rental, with subsequent sales to the television.

Coronavirus virtually shut down all the revenue-generating points for movies except the digital domain and that includes streaming of songs associated with the movies.

Movie soundtracks have been an additional income for production companies and with streaming of songs on the high, it has become an integral factor in the recoup of investments. Soundtrack albums and singles are also often released with many of them becoming major chart hits, in turn creating additional income from such ancillary sources such as radio, television, cable and worldwide mechanical royalties from download and streaming royalties and commercial advertising fees, among many other sources.

There’s Money in Movie Soundtracks

Surely, Ghanaian filmmakers have been sleeping; sleeping on the potential of producing soundtracks as an additional income base.

Check this out;

The 1992 film, ‘Bodyguard’, starring Whitney Houston and Kevin Costner holds the title of greatest selling soundtrack album of all time, with 17 million copies sold in the US and over 42 million copies sold worldwide. “Titanic” is one of the most successful films of all time and the soundtrack followed in the film’s footsteps. Over 11 million copies have been sold, greatly influenced by Celine Dion’s heartwrenching “My Heart Will Go On.”

There’s more!

Michael Jordan’s theatrical debut, ‘Space Jam” came with a pumped-up soundtrack, featuring the worldwide hit “I Believe I Can Fly” by R. Kelly. 6million copies were sold and the quintessential disco movie, “Saturday Night Fever” starring John Travolta was a massive hit and the soundtrack was mainly composed by the Bee Gees. It sold 15 million copies nationally and reawakened a love for polyester jumpsuits and disco balls.

What the Artistes Are Also Missing

Shatta Wale was featured on the soundtrack for the Spanish movie, Black Beach while Rocky Dawuni’s ‘Shine Your Light’ appeared on the soundtrack for the hit movie, Fist Fight. Interrogation has not been done on how much these artistes were paid, if any.

The synchronization fees charged by music publishers for major studio films are usually between $15,000 and $60,000 (with the majority ranging from $20,000 to $45,000) but can be lower if the music budget is small or higher if the song is used several times in the motion picture, if the use is under the opening or closing credits, if the song is a major hit, or if it is vital to the plot or particular scene of the motion picture.

There are no hard and fast rules in this area as the fees are negotiated in the context of each individual film; the same song may be licensed at very different rates for different projects (i.e. major studio release, independent film, foreign film, film festival license only, web production, or student film).

It should also be mentioned that record companies normally charge between $15,000 and $70,000 for the use of existing master recordings in a major studio film but, depending on the stature of the artist, the length of the use, the music budget and how the recording is being used, these fees can be greater or less.


Consideration of Music for Movies

When the call comes in from the music supervisor of a motion picture, there are a number of factors that are considered in determining how much to charge for the inclusion of a song in a film, including- how the song is used (i.e. vocal performance by an actor on camera, instrumental background, vocal background), the overall budget for the film, as well as the music budget, the type of film (i.e. major studio, independent, foreign, student, web.

Other elements are; the stature of song being used (i.e. current hit, new song, famous standard, and rock n ‘roll classic), the duration of the use (i.e. one minute, four minutes, 10 seconds) and whether there are multiple uses of the song, the term of the license (i.e. two years, 10 years, life of copyright, perpetual).

Others are; the territory of the license (i.e. the world, the universe, specific foreign countries) and whether there is a guarantee that the song will be used on the film’s soundtrack album among others.

Make Moves, Make Money

There’s no more conventional ways of making money in the creative industry. COVID-19 and digital platform has unleashed various innovative ways movie makers and musicians can make money.

The culture of movie soundtracks has been lost of our filmmakers since Adam and the lobbying tactics of our artistes to get their music in movies have still not been hatched.

Times are changing, it is time for our stakeholders to also change with the times. Make the moves and make money – it is out there!




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