Olympics Bring Home the Gold for Ailing Music Business

Dizzee Rascal / Photo by Getty Images
Dizzee Rascal / Photo by Getty Images
Marc Hogan WRITTEN BY
Marc Hogan

The athletes haven't been the only ones achieving victory at the 2012 Summer Olympics in London. In a year when the only million-selling album in the U.S. actually came out last year, the music business has been getting a promotional boost out of the whole Olympic spectacle. See, the jocks and the punks aren't so different after all. It's like The Breakfast Club.

Not that the music benefiting from Olympic exposure is necessarily punk. Not in any way, shape, or form. American Idol winner Phillip Phillips' comfort food offering "Home" has maybe gotten a bigger Olympic bump than just about any other recording. The track's frequent use as a theme during NBC's women's gymnastics TV coverage has industry insiders predicting it will sell about 200,000 downloads for the week ending Sunday, August 5, according to Billboard. For comparison, only Flo Rida's "Whistle" topped the 200,000 download mark last week.

The Olympics' music-packed opening ceremonies on July 27 have also helped draw attention to various songs. As Billboard.biz reports, more Shazam users looked up the name of Dizzee Rascal and Armand Van Helden's filter-house rap song "Bonkers" than any other track during the event, the audio search company said. "Bonkers" reportedly sold almost 2,000 units in the most recent week, based on Nielsen SoundScan data, jumping from virtually nill a week earlier. Mike Oldfield's "Tubular Bells," London Symphony Orchestra's "Chariots of Fire," and Sex Pistols' "Pretty Vacant" were among some of the other most-"tagged" songs on Shazam.

Arctic Monkeys are another musical act doing a successful Olympic pole vault. Their bristling opening-ceremony cover of the Beatles' "Come Together" is on pace to claim the No. 19 position on Sunday's U.K. singles chart, the NME reports. That's almost enough to make up for the sting of NBC airing commercials instead of the band's performance of their 2005 breakout hit "I Bet That You Look Good on the Dancefloor" (which, to be fair, played on U.S. TV constantly earlier this year during college basketball's March Madness tournament).

The unlikeliest name to receive Olympic honors has to be Fuck Buttons. The opening ceremony included the expansive electro-shoegaze duo's mercilessly crushing "Surf Solar," originally from 2009's Tarot Sport, along with a remix of the same album's "Olympians." "Sundowner," by Fuck Buttons half Ben Power's Blanck Mass project, also appeared, in a version recorded with the London Symphony Orchestra. Power told NME that Rick Smith of Underworld, the U.K. electronic group in charge of the ceremony's music was a fan and asked them to be involved. "The music isn't as snotty as the name," Power explains, truthfully. Both the "Olympians" remix and the Blanck Mass track appear alongside Arctic Monkeys' Beatles cover on ceremony compilation Isles of Wonder, which, as Billboard notes, debuted in the Top 5 on the U.K. album chart.

The closing ceremony, with its own musical element, won't happen until August 12, so there's still plenty of time for the music industry to notch some other Olympic victories. Listeners could do worse than start with the musical recommendations of gold medal-winning American gymnast Gabby Douglas. She told EW: "I love listening to Lil Wayne, Drake, and Eminem to get me fired up! (Clean versions of course.)" Wait until she hears Fuck Buttons. Watch out, 2016.

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