The soundtrack for Marvel’s Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 came out on April 21 and sold 34,000 units in its first week. The actual film wasn’t released in the US until May 5, three weeks later. During those three weeks, that soundtrack, Awesome Mix Vol. 2, served as content marketing for the film.
Usually, it doesn’t work out like this. It’s much more typical for producers to release a soundtrack after the film has released, squeezing more money from the property. Of course, that’s a perfectly fine motivation. Awesome Mix Vol. 2 ended up peaking at number four on the Billboard charts, the same week as the film was released. But why not also get some content marketing out of your soundtrack? And why aren’t more soundtracks used this way? And given that every soundtrack is content, when does a soundtrack become content marketing?
A soundtrack becomes content marketing when it’s used to promote its parent property. It can’t be treated as an afterthought. When the Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 trailer came out, lots of Marvel fans wanted to hear more of the trailer music, by the 70s Glam band The Sweet’s “Fox on the Run”. It’s easy enough to find the track online, but enterprising Marvel fans took it a step further and uploaded the track to YouTube with a Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 background. And got millions of views. Releasing the album early was all well and good, but Marvel could have and should have taken this step themselves. Or maybe even put out their own music video.
TV shows have a somewhat more proactive history of using soundtracks as content marketing. Consider the many albums released by The Simpsons. Or more recently, the 107 song album released by Bob’s Burgers. The producers of Bob’s Burgers went a step further and had five of their show’s songs covered by indie artists, like this number by The National and Låpsley.
However, this is atypical. Most media properties aren’t using the songs they create (or license) as content marketing. But they should. Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 has proven it can work.