Sri Lankan-born rapper M.I.A. has had a major hit with her song, “Paper Planes,” which was originally released in February but given new life thanks to its prominent placement in the trailer for Pineapple Express.
As Peter Kafka noted on Silicon Alley Insider, the track has already reached #2 on iTunes’ most downloaded songs list. One problem: the song isn’t actually in the Sony Pictures movie or, more importantly, included in the film’s soundtrack, released through Sony Music’s independent distribution arm, Red.
Instead, every one of those downloads and the skyrocketing sales of M.I.A.’s Kala, the album “Paper Planes” is on, pull in revenue for Sony’s competitor, Universal Music Group. Indeed, “Paper Planes” was downloaded 125,371 times last week, and Kala‘s sales increased by 11,000 copies (7,200 of which were digital downloads), rocketing the album up from number 62 to number 45.
Meanwhile, the MIA-less Pineapple Express soundtrack didn’t even crack the top half of the Billboard 200 albums chart and has been hovering in the lower half of iTunes’ most-downloaded albums list (it briefly cracked the top 10 a couple days after its August 5 release, but dropped like a stone). However, if Sony had managed to put “Paper Planes” on the Pineapple Express soundtrack, maybe it would have moved Sony’s album higher.
Granted, enterprising consumers would have sought out “Paper Planes” on Kala even if it was an “Album Only” song on the soundtrack, and downloads of the song would always go to Universal. But, if Sony had scored some sort of special version of the song, like one intercut with dialogue from the film, that could’ve greatly enhanced sales for the soundtrack.
But for now “Paper Planes” may be getting people into the theatres to see Sony Pictures’ Pineapple Express, but it’s not helping Sony Music’s bottom line.
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