The Secret Life of Walter Mitty
Ben Stiller in "The Secret Life of Walter Mitty" Wilson Web/20th Century Fox Film

Of Trailers and Hits: An 18-month-old song by Of Monsters and Men is a surprise breakout thanks to its use in the trailer for Ben Stiller's upcoming film

Ben Stiller's next film, "The Secret Life of Walter Mitty," will not be in theaters until Christmas but it's already having an affect on the band Of Monsters and Men.

"Dirty Paws," a track from the act's Republic Records debut My Head Is an Animal, had a significant sales spike in August after it provided the soundtrack to the first "Walter Mitty" trailer, which runs two minutes and seven seconds. Released a year-and-a-half ago and never worked at radio, "Dirty Paws" sold 34,000 downloads in August-an average of 6,700 per week-after 17 months of weekly sales around 1,000, according to Nielsen SoundScan.

The song's presence prompted alternative KROQ Los Angeles to give the song 17 spins between Aug. 26 and Sept. 1, according to Nielsen BDS. Republic is exploring a potential radio campaign. The track has been posted on SoundCloud with a tag for the "Walter Mitty" soundtrack. 

The five most-popular versions of the trailer uploaded to YouTube have been viewed more than 4.4 million times as of today (Sept. 16).

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"There's a great feeling of momentum," Republic executive VP Charlie Walk says. "Come November and December, that's a big song helping set them up [for their next album] and the soundtrack. [The trailer] is one of the great music videos."

Universal Music Group's Republic will release the soundtrack around the time the film opens on Dec. 25.

Trailers rarely generate sales spikes for unknown songs, and part of that owes to film studios rarely relying on a single song for an entire trailer. Often trailers use a mix of score and song, frequently using music that doesn't appear in the film.

The unique quality of the "Walter Mitty" trailer definitely contrasts with music uses in other trailers for December releases. "Anchorman 2" is set mostly to Journey's "Don't Stop Believin'" with a snippet of the Friends of Distinction's "Grazing in the Grass." After a score of guitar and bass, the trailer for "August: Osage County" turns to Edward Sharpe & the Magnetic Zeros' "Man on Fire" for its second half. And nearly 90 seconds of "Kiss the Sky" by Shawn Lee's Ping Pong Orchestra accompanies the trailer for George Clooney's World War II film "The Monuments Men."

Of Monsters and Men's "Dirty Paws," which has an energy and texture similar to advertiser faves Edward Sharpe & the Magnetic Zeros' "Home" and the Lumineers' "Ho Hey," is the rare song to make the transition from a film into a trailer.

"It was borne out of the beauty of the movie," Fox Music executive VP Danielle Diego says.

Music supervisor/producer George Drakoulias, a longtime musical associate of Stiller's, prepared a compilation of Icelandic bands for him to review. Stiller, who stars and directs in the movie based on a James Thurber short story and was first adapted for a film in 1947, fell in love with "Dirty Paws." It's likely to be the only song from an Icelandic band on the soundtrack.

Once the first trailer was cut in July, Fox chief creative officer Tony Sella embraced the track and used it for the entire trailer. It's also an early arrival, as other high-profile Christmas releases-"Jack Ryan," "Labor Day" and "Grudge Match"-haven't yet released trailers.