After Selena Gomez's Exit and a Thawing 'Frozen,' Is Disney Headed for a Cold Spell?
The 'Frozen' soundtrack may have helped the company’s music division achieve its highest market share in years, but will a recent exodus of pop stars bring on a new ice age?
Thanks to the blockbuster sales of Frozen and its beyond-ubiquitous hit “Let It Go,” Disney’s music division is on its hottest streak since the halcyon days of the Jonas Brothers and Miley Cyrus in 2009, with a 2.9 percent market share. The soundtrack’s whopping-for-these-days 3.5 million sales helped account for half of the label’s recorded-music earnings in 2014 so far -- a feat to cheer, no doubt, but what happens in 2015 when Elsa is on a screen sabbatical?
That’s the question on many Mouse watchers’ minds as Hollywood Records, Disney Music Group’s pop division, tries to arrange a new crop of stars to make up for the mainstays who have jumped ship. Those include Cyrus, who remade her career at RCA Records in 2013, and Selena Gomez, who’s headed to Interscope (a best-of album will be her final release on Hollywood in November). Meanwhile, sources tell Billboard that budding pop/R&B artist Zendaya is not quite leaving the label, but finalizing a joint venture with Hollywood and Republic Records that will be a first-of-its-kind deal between the two companies.
The comings and goings have hardly fazed DMG president Ken Bunt, however: He believes Hollywood Records is still a label where younger artists can grow into adulthood. “We’ve strived to help build careers,” says Bunt, “and if you look at Demi [Lovato] and Selena and Grace Potter, it’s not one album and done -- we’ve tried to focus on the long-term perspective.”
Right now, Lovato, 22, is Hollywood’s flagship artist, and the last of Disney’s late-2000s teen stars is still releasing hits for the label -- 2013’s Demi spawned three top 40 singles on the Billboard Hot 100. Bunt confirms that Lovato will release a new album on Hollywood in 2015, but while her manager Phil McIntyre talks of a “collaborative relationship and many years of success” with the label, he says he doesn’t know how long the singer will be on the roster.
Hollywood also has new music coming from over-25 artists like Potter and ZZ Ward, but the next year will be about replenishing the cupboard of young talent. Bea Miller, a 15-year-old alumni of the U.S. version of The X Factor, has been opening for Lovato on select dates and has an album due in the first half of 2015. R5, the pop-rock group fronted by 18-year-old Austin & Ally star Ross Lynch, has been touring in preparation for its 2015 sophomore album. And in the indie-pop corner, new band signee Joywave -- which has a top 10 hit on the Alternative chart with its Big Data collaboration “Dangerous” -- will release its Hollywood debut in 2015.
As those artists’ careers -germinate, DMG will trot out another batch of high-profile soundtracks in the hope of replicating the successes of Frozen and the Guardians of the Galaxy soundtrack (543,000 sold, according to Nielsen SoundScan). The soundtrack to the big-screen adaptation of Into the Woods will arrive Dec. 16, while upcoming Disney Channel movies The Descendants and Teen Beach Movie 2 will have accompanying compilations out in 2015. Plus: Frozen Fever, an animated short that serves as a mini-sequel to the feature film, is due in spring 2015. Although it won’t have a full-length soundtrack, Disney confirms that a new song is coming.
If all else fails, perhaps “Let It Go Again” is just a few months away.
This article was first published in the Nov. 1 issue of Billboard.