Rocky III, Queen and the Eye of The Tiger

Did you know that Stallone tried unsuccessfully to use Queen’s “Another One Bites the Dust” for Rocky III before custom-ordering “Eye of Tiger”?

“Eye of the Tiger” is a song performed by the American rock band Survivor from the album Eye of the Tiger, released in 1982. It was written at the request of Sylvester Stallone for the film Rocky III, as a replacement for Queen’s “Another One Bites the Dust” for which Stallone was unable to obtain permission.

Eye of the Tiger would eventually become a classic of the 80’s. The New York Times ran a amusing article about how this (and other uber-classics) remain in hot demand:

  • Since the song [Eye of the Tiger] became available on services like iTunes about a year and a half ago, it has sold more than 275,000 copies.
  • Classics like Lynyrd Skynyrd’s “Sweet Home Alabama,” Queen’s “We Will Rock You” and the Eagles’ “Hotel California” are regularly ranking among the 200 best-selling tracks on the Internet
  • Resurgent novelties like Vanilla Ice’s “Ice Ice Baby” are racking up big sales, too.
  • …Occasional 90’s alternative memento (Oasis’s “Wonderwall” has sold more than 251,000 copies so far) or 80’s strip-club staple (Def Leppard’s “Pour Some Sugar on Me” has surpassed 216,000).
  • Music companies sold more than 350 million singles last year, a jump of 150 percent over the previous year’s total. Sales of full digital albums increased even more, rising more than 190 percent to 16.2 million.
  • Sales of older releases, known in the music business as catalog, account for a huge share of the industry’s fledgling online business. Executives at the major record companies say catalog material makes up somewhere between half and two-thirds of their sales of digital singles. (Catalog accounted for about 37 percent of CD sales last year, according to Nielsen SoundScan.)
  • Even bands with deep catalogs have hits, and then they have superstar hits,” said Eric Garland, chief executive of BigChampagne, a research firm that monitors activity on file-trading networks. “There may be 20 songs from Queen that people know, but really we’re talking about two or three that are more popular by orders of magnitude. They’re cultural staples. If I had the option to buy 9 songs instead of 12 songs on ‘Meet the Beatles,’ I might have done that.”
  • Uncertainty about such piecemeal purchases is one reason some artists whose classic albums or hits compilations enjoy steady sales have so far either declined to sell their music online (Bob Seger) or sell it only in album form, with no single-song downloads allowed (AC/DC).
  • “There are lots of newbies out there, people who don’t know of any of these bands, and they could easily buy one song,” said David Dorn, senior vice president of new-media strategy at Rhino. “What keeps me up at night is, how do I get you to see that, with the Ramones, you shouldn’t just buy ‘Blitzkrieg Bop’ and be done with it?”
  • Consider the case of Queen, whose 1992 “Greatest Hits” CD has become an evergreen seller. The band’s song “Bohemian Rhapsody” has sold more than 301,000 copies online; “We Will Rock You” has sold more than 202,000. Both routinely rank among the 200 best-selling digital singles. But even if some fans are buying both songs — suggesting that they might be interested in the complete hits collection — their online purchases do not appear to be cutting significantly into physical sales. The CD sold an estimated 435,000 copies last year, up about 9 percent from the year before even as the industry’s overall album sales declined 7 percent.
  • Executives at Disney’s Hollywood Records label say their research shows that about half of the consumers who bought Queen’s most recent hits CD are boys under 18 — an audience that is also well represented among iTunes customers.
  • In a recent week on the Rhapsody online music service, a variety of older acts had four or more songs among the 1,000 best-selling tracks, including the Eagles, the Rolling Stones and Guns N’ Roses. But the same bands have enjoyed strong sales of their hits CD’s. The Eagles’ blockbuster “Greatest Hits 1971-1975,” for example, sold 117,000 copies last year, up about 20 percent from the year before.
  • That sentiment is shared by artists like Jim Peterik, the former guitarist and keyboardist for Survivor and one of the writers of “Eye of the Tiger” — which, in addition to its online sales, has sold an estimated 200,000 ring tones. The song is available on at least five different albums in the marketplace; collectively they sold about 90,000 copies last year.
  • Mr. Peterik said he had been delighted by the song’s success online. But he said such sales can “coexist” with continued sales of full albums. Those buying the song “are not fans of Survivor,” he said. “They’re fans of ‘Eye of the Tiger.’ “
  • As recording formats have evolved over the decades, the industry has profited from the marketing of previously released music — as fans replaced their vinyl LP collections with compact discs of the same albums, for example. Since the older classics are comparatively inexpensive to reproduce and market, they typically carry higher profit margins than music from new acts. But the migration of music from shiny plastic discs to online services has disrupted the industry’s cycle of replacement, and record labels are only beginning to see the effects.

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