Talking With Bruce Resnikoff About Straight Outta Compton and a New Generation of Fans

With the Straight Outta Compton movie about to put the N.W.A story front and center in the culture once again, Bruce Resnikoff and Team UMe are ready with a brace of classic catalog that will be required post-movie listening—and a social- and mobile-heavy campaign targeting young fans.

Among their titles are two versions of the breakout set Straight Outta Compton (one with four bonus tracks), follow-up Efil4zaggin, N.W.A’s Greatest Hits and solo releases from Dr. Dre (2001), Ice Cube and Eazy E. These include releases on Ruthless, Priority, Lench Mob and Death Row.

UMe reissued Straight Outta Compton for Record Store Day last spring (on vinyl and a red cassette) as the beginning of the new chapter. Once the trailers for the film hit theaters and went online, sales for this seminal release and other titles associated with the group spiked, and the phenomenon has continued; Straight was up 57% and Greatest Hits up 63% last week. “It led us to understand there was a real connection between what was going on in the movie and music itself,” Resnikoff points out. “It’s not dissimilar to what went on with the Kurt Cobain and Amy Winehouse documentaries.”

Dre’s new Compton set, filled with retrospective material about the N.W.A days, will also undoubtedly spur fan exploration of the earlier releases.

UMe’s campaign places a heavy emphasis on social and mobile, with former member DJ Yella providing much context on the band’s story. Facebook, Instagram and other social networks will figure prominently. The mobile sites of influential blogs such as Complex and Grantland will also generate mass impressions.

A Vevo promotion will spotlight the original “Straight Outta Compton” video, among other original clips. Spotify playlists will serve as unofficial movie soundtracks; these include sets curated by Yella and an N.W.A “family tree.” Contests around album artwork and other elements, meanwhile, are geared toward increasing engagement.

“Because of our ability to get directly to consumers through social media, this is a much bigger phenomenon than it could’ve been if the movie had come out 10 years ago,” Resnikoff points out.

"Because of our ability to get directly to consumers through social media, this is a much bigger phenomenon than it could’ve been if the movie had come out 10 years ago."—Bruce Resnikoff

He notes that he and his team based its approach on where the fans already were, and has coordinated with the N.W.A site, Facebook page and other preexisting social outposts. “It’s been very flexible and dynamic, adding and changing things on the fly,” he explains. “We had a concept of where we wanted to go, but let the fans and the online chatter take us there.”

The tremendous shock value of “Fuck Tha Police” and other material caused huge blowback, resulting in the very first parental warning stickers to be slapped on records and the creation of Tipper Gore’s PMRC.

The larger import of N.W.A’s message, he adds is “why we’re not focusing on ‘Fuck Tha Police’—we’re focusing on the artists and on the time, and that’s something this movie captures incredibly, and why it makes people want to hear the music.”

The film, said to be largely the vision of Ice Cube, has generated exceptionally positive advance word, not only from music fans and film critics but also from industry insiders—including Priority founder Bryan Turner, who (despite a few quibbles) deems it “a very authentic depiction of the bigger events of the time period.”

“The film is perhaps the greatest marketing tool we have,” says Resnikoff. “It tells the story so well. It’s going to continue driving people to this music—not just for weeks or months. It’s going to introduce this new generation to music they’ll want to hear because of the story.”

He relates that two teams are involved in social media and advertising for the campaign—a research team and a digital team. “It’s not often we have a musical work that has the distinct narrative and story behind it,” he clarifies, “and nobody wants to lose sight of that.”

Taken together, the film, recordings and social campaign recount an astonishing odyssey from hardscrabble roots to worldwide fame and fortune.

“These guys are musicians, entrepreneurs and cultural icons,” Resnikoff marvels. “They started with nothing and struggled for everything. Fast forward 30 years, and look where they are.”