Jim Carroll

Music, Life and everything else

Straight Outta Marketing

The N.W.A. biopic is a masterclass in how to set up and sell a movie

N.W.A.IRL meet N.W.A. on screen

Mon, Aug 24, 2015, 14:12


It seems as if there has been a new must-read piece about N.W.A., Straight Outta Compton or gangsta rap every single day for the last few months. The release of F Gary Gray’s flick on group has served as the hook for so many people to relive the halycon days of old and there have been many fine pieces of work as a result.

This interview with the band’s original manager Jerry Heller is my favourite so far, though that might change if anyone gets Suge Knight on tape with his views about the film. Aside from pieces on N.W.A. as fashion icons, you even had Dr Dre capitalising on the film with a new album, followed a week later by Dre apologising to all the ladies he beat the lard out of over the years.

All of the above has obviously paid off when it comes to the box office. Straight Outta Compton has just topped the US box office for the second weekend in a row. The film has made $111 million in the States to date and is sure to add to that sum when it opens elsewhere this week.

Of course, there has also been the traditional marketing campaign, with the cast and crew all out there all day and all night answering the same couple of questions over and over again in two to 10 minute segments. If you think the music industry machine is fairly heavy-handed and scabby when it comes to allocating time for interviews, the film industry has news for you. But it obviously works and, as we saw with the recent visit of the Trainwreck stars to Ireland, you can get a heck of a lot of coverage on the back of people supping pints with a wedding party in a Dublin pub.

But Straight Outta Compton is one of times when the marketing folks managed to work every single angle for the best possible result. Be it the way in which that iconic poster was pimped out or even the way in which a lot of the narrative around the Dre album was all about the film, Straight Outta Compton’s sales pitch could not have been better scripted. It helps, of course, that there was a lot of articles waiting to be written about that era and the film presented the perfect excuse.

Now that Straight Outta Compton has successfully got out the gap, you can expect a lot of digging to go on to see if there’s a similar goldmine to be found in any other music story from the past few decades. Raekwon reckons the world is ready for a Wu movie, though I’d be far more interested in a film about the one and only Ol’ Dirty Bastard (though there are some real-life scenes which scriptwriters would find hard to top). A canny hook-up was announced earlier this month between a record label with film roots, Warner Music, and film and TV production company Catalyst Global Media with the aim of developing biopics and documentaries based on the label’s acts. Whether they’ll find a story which gets all the marketing and promo engines humming like Straight Outta Compton remains to be seen.