Music’s Next Great Biopics, Billboard

No one wants to talk about a Marvin Gaye movie. Or one aboutJanis Joplin, or a Jimi Hendrix biopic.

As film subjects go, they’re problematic. Heirs to the Joplin and Hendrix estates have blocked films by withholding music and image rights. The pieces to the Gaye story are in so many hands that no one has been able to collect them all in one place.

No, the talk these days is about Queen and Sam Cooke, 2Pac and Teddy Pendergrass, Dennis Wilson of the Beach Boys, Frankie Valli’s days in the Four Seasons and Brian Epstein’s career managing the Beatles. A key factor — and this is a shift in the movie-making paradigm — is access to life rights and music, a desire by stars and heirs to have their stories told and a new level of proactivity from rights-holders. Securing recordings and publishing rights has become the first order of business rather than the final step in setting up a film.

Heirs and family members are making better efforts in coordinating with publishers before taking stories to filmmakers. The 20th-century model relied on a studio or production company having an interest in a musician’s story – Benny Goodman, Loretta Lynn, Charlie Parker, for example — and once all the pieces were in place, they’d approach the copyright owners.

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