On the Continued and Improbable Success of the Soundtrack 

2005 marked the fifth consecutive year in which the music industry experienced shrinking sales. The reasons, of course, are many. Illegal downloading is as prevalent as it’s ever been, as most people would rather spend $20 on a half-tank of gas than on a record containing only one or two songs they’ll actually like. And really, that’s the biggest problem: the major labels that account for the lion’s share of all music sales in the world are releasing terrible records. They’ve been releasing terrible records for decades, I know, but only recently have people figured out how to get what they want without spending unnecessarily.

There is one group of people who haven’t caught on, though. I’m willing to bet you know at least one of those dopey fucking assholes whose record collection is made up largely of soundtracks they bought because, oh my God, they just had to have that song that was playing during the closing credits. Those people are still out there doing what they’ve always done.

The soundtrack to Brokeback Mountain, which features contributions from Rufus Wainright, Emmylou Harris and Willie Nelson, has been selling steadily since it was released last November. The Dad-Rock-heavy soundtrack to Elizabethtown has as well. And I don’t even care to discuss the success of the Walk the Line soundtrack, which is comprised mostly of Joaquin Phoenix and Reese Witherspoon’s versions of Johnny and June Carter-Cash songs.

I can only assume people are buying these things at record stores in the local mall. But what’s totally fucked up about this whole thing is that they’re the ones who’d benefit most from these newer methods of acquiring music. If they’d only pay attention, they’d realize that instead of shelling out money for the whole disc, they could spend 99 cents and still get that Shins song Natalie Portman was listening to in Garden State, which is all they really wanted anyway. Thing is, those people are never going to pay attention, which is why it’s hard to imagine a time when the major label groups will be removed from power.


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