NEW YORK (Billboard) – Sure, NBC’s “Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip” is struggling in the ratings. But that is not stopping record labels and artist managers from pursuing ways to get their acts on the show.
The show averages roughly 9 million viewers each week, according to Nielsen Media Research. And quite frankly, 9 million sets of ears and eyes is not a bad number to reach.
Just ask Sting and Corinne Bailey Rae, who have appeared and performed on the show in recent months. Both artists saw spikes in sales of their new discs following their “Studio 60” guest spots.
On February 5, Natalie Cole will perform on the show (within the show), singing a version of the Burt Bacharach/Hal David classic “I Say a Little Prayer.” It’s a song that could have easily appeared on her new album of covers, “Leavin’.”
This new version of “I Say a Little Prayer” was created and conceived by faith-based company Good News Holdings for the launch of its Save My Life initiative (http://www.savemylife.org). The not-for-profit Save My Life raises funds and awareness for children affected and infected by AIDS in Africa.
Cole’s appearance on “Studio 60” arrives six nights before the 49th annual Grammy Awards, where the singer is nominated in the best female R&B vocal performance category for “Day Dreaming.”
Cole also appears in Nas’ new video for “Can’t Forget About You,” which references “Unforgettable,” Cole’s “duet” with her late father, Nat “King” Cole.
From where Cole sits, the timing of all this activity is serendipitous. “Today, more than ever, it’s really important to diversify and reach as many people as possible,” the eight-time Grammy winner says. “You must be more aggressive, because the marketplace is so competitive. The Internet is a double-edged sword. There’s so much music out there.”
Which is why TV shows like “Studio 60,” “Cold Case” and “Grey’s Anatomy” have become important marketing tools for the music industry, she adds. “These shows have such broad appeal — and they’re all using music in interesting and creative ways.”
More important, she notes, “The music supervisors are not necessarily looking for the most recognizable songs or the hits. They’re taking chances.”
In the episode, Cole performs at a fictitious ceremony for Catholics in Media (in fact, a real organization), which honors the show’s Christian character, Harriet Hayes, with an award.
During Cole’s introduction on “Studio 60,” Save My Life is mentioned, but it’s not a blatant advertisement, executive director Thomas Schlamme notes. “Our interest was pretty simple,” he says. “How can we organically make this work in the storytelling we do? In the end, the artist must work within the context of the show.”
Last year, ABC’s “Grey’s Anatomy” did something similar when it helped promote Ford Motor’s Warriors in Pink campaign to fight breast cancer.
Talks between Good News Holdings and “Studio 60” had been going on for quite some time before “I Say a Little Prayer” was mentioned, according to Good News Holdings co-founder/managing director Martha Cotton. “This gave us our first outlet to introduce Save My Life,” she recalls.
Savemylife.org goes live January 29, which is when people can purchase the digital track on the site, as well as at other digital music stores. A video for the song is in the works. The song and video — as well as Save My Life — will be heavily marketed and promoted on the Internet via secular and faith-based sites.
At the present time, though, there appears to be one missing link: Cole’s label, Verve Records. A little cross-marketing love from Verve — which has nothing planned — could bring additional attention, and sales, to Cole’s album “Leavin’,” which has sold 50,000 copies so far, according to Nielsen SoundScan.
Verve should take a cue from its Universal Music corporate sibling, Universal Music Classics Group, which notified retailers of Sting’s upcoming TV appearances. Because of this, stores knew Sting would be on “Studio 60” during the album’s second week of release, and kept his disc, “Songs From the Labyrinth,” in high-profile locations.