This week on the music beat
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SOTTO VOCE Assessing the animated feature Quest for Camelot, Daily Variety’s critic wrote that Celine Dion ”gives a full-throttle rendition of Lady Juliana’s big number, ‘The Prayer,’ that will do a lot to boost CD soundtrack sales.” Well, not if Sony Music, which distributes Dion’s home label, 550, has anything to say about it. Strangely missing from initial ads for the Warner Bros. film and Atlantic soundtrack was any mention of the white-hot Dion — though the campaign did take pains to flag contributions from such megastars as…the Corrs and Steve Perry. Perhaps Warner hadn’t heard of that little niche hit, ”My Heart Will Go On”?

The real explanation, naturally, has to do with the nervous treaties struck between rival corporations borrowing each others’ hit acts for soundtracks. Under an agreement last year between Sony CEO Tommy Mottola and Warner chief Bob Daly, the latter company leased the diva but was forbidden from releasing a ”Prayer” single or even singling out her presence on the soundtrack. But with Titanic having subsequently busted records (and Camelot’s prospects decidedly iffy), Warner marketers were itchy to get word out. Opening day, a Gene Shalit quote praising Dion was splashed across banner ads. Neat loophole?

”Not as far as Sony was concerned,” says Paul Farberman, a representative from Dion’s management. ”They were certainly annoyed [because] that’s not the spirit of the agreement we had.” Sony also objected to seeing Dion promoted on a Camelot website; a few legal-affairs calls later, Daly ordered both blurbs pulled and peace was restored. Warner claims the move was out of consideration, not necessity: ”We certainly were not in violation of anything,” says a spokeswoman, ”but we’re aware of the sensitivity, and as soon as we were made aware that they would prefer we didn’t even include words from a critic in the ad, we dropped it.” When it comes to one conglomerate blocking another from exploiting its most exploitable asset, sometimes the hype won’t go on…. Reflecting the movie’s mediocre opening, Camelot’s soundtrack has so far risen to a less than shipshape No. 117.

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