It was an interesting week on the Billboard 200 album chart. Two soundtracks clocked in among the Top 5—an unusual happening in its own right. Even more strange, however, was that both were collections from artists who’ve been around a long time: Madonna and AC/DC.
Glee: The Music, The Power of Madonna snagged the top spot on the chart. The seven-song offering featured the cast of Fox’s show Glee(you can find our review of its Madonna-themed episode here) performing some of Madonna’s biggest hits, mostly from the ’80s and ’90s: “Borderline,” “Like a Virgin,” “Like a Prayer,” “Express Yourself” and “Vogue.” Only two hits were more recent: “”What It Feels Like for a Girl” and “4 Minutes.” (iTunes purchasers also got “Burning Up”).
And then there was the soundtrack to Iron Man 2, which features 15 anthems from Aussie rockers AC/DC spanning the band’s 37-year career. It came in at No. 4.
What are we to make of these soundtracks’ strong performances?
On the most basic level, I think it speaks to the enduring popularity of their contributors. Even after 30 or so years (a few more for AC/DC, a few less for Madonna), people still love these artists’ music. Longtime fans are willing to pony up for yet another version of songs they already own, while younger fans may be buying their music for the first time.
Even more significantly, though, I think these albums’ strong sales speaks to the increasing symbiosis between all aspects of the entertainment world. Movies and television need artists’ music. And musicians need TV and movies to help them stay relevant in a music world that’s increasingly fragmented.
It wasn’t that long ago that Madonna and AC/DC might have been branded sell-outs for licensing their music to be used in such a way. Now they’re just savvy marketers doing what they must to survive.
The same dynamic holds true for the people tasked with assembling musical talent for their properties. Why should a movie or television producer take a chance on some unknown indie band when artists the caliber of AC/DC and Madonna are more than willing to make their music available?
From the entertainment industry perspective, everybody wins. Whether fans of Glee and Iron Man are well served by that synergy is another question altogether.
Nevertheless, every time a song or album helps a TV show or a movie—and vice versa—it will likely reinforce this accelerating trend in the entertainment world.