How The WB Makes Pop Stars

On the right show, network exposure pays big dividends
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Before Gavin DeGraw's album Chariot was released to the general public, Joe Davola, One Tree Hill's executive producer, was persuaded to hear it by Lindsey Wolfington and Madonna Wade-Reed, who place pop songs on TV shows. They had successfully landed artists' songs on The WB's Smallville and Felicity in the past and wanted to push DeGraw's debut.

Davola didn't like the song they picked, but he told the women “'This guy sounds like One Tree Hill,'” Wade-Reed recalls. “He told us to get him the record, even though it wasn't released yet. And that's how 'I Don't Wanna Be' became the theme song.”

One Tree Hill premiered on The WB in September 2003 and was not expected to be an instant hit.

But somehow, the show and its sizzling cast caught on. And with it, DeGraw's song gained popularity. This spring—a year and a half later—”I Don't Wanna Be” hit No. 1 on the pop charts.

In its 10 years on the air, The WB—always aimed squarely at the 18-34 demographic—has included the latest music in its shows.

“TV is the new radio,” says Mark Schwahn, One Tree Hill's creator and executive producer. “The WB is so smart to acknowledge that most kids have a soundtrack to their lives.”

One of the young network's first hits, Dawson's Creek, incorporated songs into every episode. “When we used music, it enhanced the emotion, the power, and—in many cases—the vulnerability and angst of all the characters,” says Paul Stupin, executive producer of Dawson's Creek. “The success we had kept pushing us to try even harder in terms of our music selections.”

Spelling Television producers learned with Beverly Hills 90210 that a hot soundtrack adds youth appeal. “We put Christina Aguilera on 90210,” says Ken Miller, senior VP at Spelling. “I heard 'Genie in a Bottle,' and I knew that it was a hit.”

Spelling did the same with WB dramas Charmed, 7th Heaven and Summerland. Each show had its own musical tone, from Charmed's live performances to Summerland's surfer-town tunes.

The network drives viewers to its Web site at TheWB.com, where they can purchase the CDs. Lew Goldstein, the network's co-president of marketing, proposed running a promotional mention at the end of every episode. Song licensing and publishing can run up to $80,000 for a megastar's music; the ad cards keep costs down, allowing producers to pack their shows with even more music. And The WB seeks out new artists, because their songs are less expensive and can help build The WB's reputation.

“If a show's producer can get a break on the cost of the music, then we'll allow a card,” says Goldstein. “Producers will bring their shows in shorter [length] to accommodate that.”

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