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Music CDs versus DVDs
Jeffrey P. Fisher
While music sales continue to plummet, the home video market continues to have skyrocketing sales. The DVD has emerged as a remarkable best seller. Why are DVDs doing so well while music
I don't feel it's just people replacing their VHS video collection with DVDs (as consumers replaced their vinyl with CDs during the 80s and 90s). There must be something more to this phenomenon.
Price. DVDs are only slightly more than CDs. A few older movies
are even less. When it comes to the competition for a consumer's
buck, DVDs win because of the extra value they offer.
No surprises. Many people have already seen the movie they buy on DVD and already know what they are getting. That isn't always so in the music world where the "hit song" is great, but the remainder of the album is disappointing.
Bonus content. There's simply more stuff on many DVDs. Recent releases have included hours and hours of bonus content to accompany the movie. While the bonus content isn't the reason most people buy DVDs, it does sweeten
Visual and aural delights. DVDs don't just look and sound marginally better than VHS tapes, they look and sound a whole lot better. I'm amazed at the quality and so are many other buyers.
Rise in home theater. People are grabbing up 5.1 home theater systems and big screen TVs like Halloween candy because the DVD brings a wonderful theater experience home -- if you have the right system! However, even low-end components greatly improve the experience.
Cheap players. The price of DVD players plummeted fast (under $60 'round here) making it easily affordable for many people. CD players didn't drop in price that quickly!
Versatile. The DVD units play audio CDs, MP3s, DVDs, and some even photo discs. People like that one appliance serves as a central part to the home entertainment system.
Selection. Let's face it, there just aren't THAT many DVDs from which to choose. You can pick up the latest releases or grab some old favorites. All in all, the choice isn't overwhelming. The absolute deluge of music CDs, makes choosing a disc hard.
Easy gift. You can't go wrong picking a movie for someone. Even if you don't know their particular likes/dislikes, it's a safe bet. Music, on the other hand, is almost impossible to choose for someone unless you really know their tastes. And chances are they already picked up their fav disc already.
File sharing. Do I even need to mention this? DVDs are difficult to copy (if at all), while CDs are ripped with free software. Lot's of free music on the Web; very few free movies.
So, what can the music industry do?
My advice? If you can't beat them, join them. It seems obvious to me that including additional content with the music release -- in the form of a DVD -- is the one direction to take. The bonus DVD should include behind the scenes material, interviews with the artists, music videos, concert performances, alternate takes, demos, unplugged concerts, and more, more, more. The additional cost is negligible for most acts (who already have or commission such work). I feel every music act -- especially indie releases -- should seriously consider going the DVD route. Some already have.
Former Black Crowes frontman, Chris Robinson, gets it. His latest solo album, New Earth Mud, comes with a bonus DVD that features a behind the scenes "making-of" documentary and several acoustic performances of the songs from the album. Though it would have been better to have a concert video of those performances, the extra tracks do add value to the package. Another important point is the circle C (copyright) and circle p (sound recording copyright) belong to -- not a record label -- but Chris Robinson himself. The artist owns it all. Bravo!
I predict we'll be seeing a lot more of these approaches to the new music industry -- both DVDs and artists keeping their rights to their work! Perhaps YOUR next release?