FINDING A HAPPY PLACE
Like most people, Ryan Murphy loves to sing in the shower, and the co-creator/director of "Glee" is open-minded when it comes to his music playlists. On "Glee," "Cabaret" show tunes, Celine Dion tearjerkers and Color Me Badd jams all make the cut.
After the success of his cutting-edge FX show "Nip/Tuck," Murphy decided he wanted to channel that love of music into his next project. "Everybody thinks I'm the dark prince of television," Murphy says by phone from Bali, where he is filming the movie adaptation of "Eat, Pray, Love." "But I was at a point where I wanted to do something light. I've always been very into music, and I wanted to show that."
In early 2008, Murphy came across an independent screenplay by Ian Brennan titled "Glee." The movie was dark and not necessarily up his alley, but Murphy found himself hooked on the title, a word that he defines as "malicious optimism." Murphy convinced Brennan to redo "Glee" as an acerbic TV comedy, and along with co-writer Brad Falchuk, they pitched the show to Fox executives in spring 2008.
The network quickly jumped onboard, and soon Fox began screening a four-minute trailer of "Glee" for major-label executives in the hopes of securing a partner to market and distribute the show's music. "We wanted to get somebody in the record business onboard early," Bywater says. "As it turned out, there was quite a bit of competition for a show that hadn't even broadcast yet." The contenders were narrowed down to four labels but Fox ultimately chose Columbia, and Murphy says it was because of Stringer's conviction that "Glee" would succeed.
"Everyone else said, 'Oh, this could do really well,' but Rob said, 'I don't think you know what you have,' " Murphy says. "He always had a plan and a passion."
Columbia has assembled a team for "Glee" to complement the one at Fox, with counterparts in publicity, A&R, marketing and sales. The label now releases the songs it feels most strongly about on iTunes up to two weeks before they air on "Glee." While the bulk of downloads are purchased in the 18-hour period following a new episode, consumers are increasingly buying advance tracks as well.
"What really sells it is that we use these songs in all of our ads," says Fox senior VP of marketing Laurel Bernard. "It's all coming back to us as additional marketing. The show pushes the music, and the music equally pushes the show."