Glee: The Billboard Cover Story


The TV show's marketing strategy, put simply, is to be omnipresent: The tour will run concurrently with the final episodes of the first season and lead into the release of the third soundtrack from the show-all while the "Power of Madonna" episode will continue to be rerun on Fox and on Hulu.

The Madonna episode was the first time the music on the show was turned over in its entirety to one performer -- and in the beginning, getting the artist onboard was a bit of a challenge.

"Her camp did say 'no' originally, but we had gone in cold with little explanation as to what 'Glee' and [Murphy's] master episode plan was," the show's music supervisor PJ Bloom says. "Once we laid the groundwork, Ryan closed the deal with an amazing appeal in letter form to Madonna, not just as the creator and driving force behind the show but as a lifelong fan."

Sony Music Label Group chairman Rob Stringer says "The Power of Madonna" was something of a risky album release, since it was based on the songs contained in just a single episode. "It's kind of weird," he says. "It's a different marketing angle, but the episode is so bloody good." Stringer says he wants to see the longer-term response to "The Power of Madonna" before any decisions are made about doing another artist-themed release from the show.

Stringer says the third volume of the "Glee" soundtrack will probably be released in late May, and another compilation from the show is expected later this year. (So far, Matthew Morrison is the sole cast member with an individual record deal; his debut will be released on Mercury this fall.)

To date, the weekly rollout of digital singles the day before the show airs hasn't cannibalized the appeal of buying the physical soundtracks. "A lot of people are buying the physical and the digital, which is the classic kind of fan fervor," Stringer says.

On the publishing side, the placement deals for songs in the show are negotiated separately from those for the soundtrack, Bloom says, but it's inevitable that the two are related.

"Soundtrack appearances are certainly part of the conversation during the show clearance process considering how extraordinary our sales are and how lucrative that stream is, but those negotiations are not tied to synch deals," Bloom says.

At this point, a live cast CD or DVD of the tour isn't planned, although Anders anticipates that footage from the trek will likely be an extra on the next compilation DVD of "Glee" episodes.

And despite its take on the quintessential American process of high school, "Glee" is starting to take off with viewers and music buyers overseas. Internationally, "Glee" airs in a number of English-speaking countries, including the United Kingdom-where it returned in April with its highest ratings so far of 1.6 million and has scored seven top 40 hits on the Official Charts Co.'s singles chart since January-Australia, Canada and New Zealand. Stringer says the show is in the early process of being dubbed for continental Europe.

"About a decade ago, our company shifted from being a network production company to what we consider a global content company," 20th Century Fox Television co-chairman Dana Walden says. "The whole thrust of that was for the studio to become brand managers. 'Glee' is the natural extension of brand development. It's been a phenomenal experience."

Digitally, according to year-end data released by Hulu, "Glee" was the eighth most popular show to be streamed on the service in 2009, and the fourth most popular search term. In April, iPhone app developer Smule-the company behind the "I Am T-Pain" app-released a "Glee" app in conjunction with Fox Digital Entertainment that uses pitch-correction technology to allow even the most tone-deaf to warble along with songs from the show.