Playing Movie Music

Back when I was an itty bitty baby DJ, I lucked into working for one of the great programming minds of the time. One of his tricks was to check the movie show times for any film featuring a hit song. When “Goldfinger” finally got to our town in the early spring of ’65, he wanted us to spin the Shirley Bassey theme song shortly after the movie was let out figuring people would be in their cars on the way home (or to high school parking spots). That was my first example of what I’d call subtle-genius programming. Sure, the other Top 40 station was playing it as well, but hearing that hit song at just the right time added some extra spark to the enjoyment of it, he believed, and made our station ‘better’ because of it. A new Elvis movie came out, he’d play the best song from it as the movie was letting out. When “The Graduate” hit the screens, it was hugely important for it marked the first time that a movie soundtrack was entirely current Pop music. Simon & Garfunkel were big stars already and the music was beyond great. It was timeless and it crossed the generations. Moms and Dads who just couldn’t get into the Stones or the Kinks or the Animals, really liked Paul and Artie. I remember sitting in the movie the weekend it opened. “Mrs. Robinson” came off the screen and got a Big Laugh from the audience. “Here’s to you Mrs. Robinson, Jesus loves you more than you know…” Nobody had heard it before and the song wouldn’t be released as a single until four months later. Luckily my station got album service and there it was. My first album-cut add and we got it on the air weeks before the competition did.

Which brings me to this. “The Nice Guys” opened last Friday. It had a huge opening weekend, a crowd-pleaser with a sequel now a sure-thing. Set in the late 70’s, the movie opens with that incredible bass riff intro of the Temptations’ “Papa Was A Rolling Stone” and closes with Al Green’s “Love and Happiness. In between, the movie has got bits and pieces of other big hits from the era. “The Pina Colada Song”, Earth Wind & Fire, America, Kool & The Gang. If I were to be programming a station where any of those songs fit into the format, I’d move the ones I chose into a very high rotation, like every 3 to 5 hours, for the next couple of weeks.

Keep the idea, young music radio programmers. There are new movies which feature hit songs coming out every year. Popular TV shows do it, too. Be aware of what’s going on in popular culture and take advantage of the opportunities you discover.