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Something's looking up in music: DVDs

November 11, 2002|Randy Lewis

Brace yourself for an onslaught of sound that's music to your eyes. Heading into the holidays, pop music DVDs galore are hitting stores. Last week, DVDs featuring Eric Clapton, the Cult, Barenaked Ladies and David Gilmour were released; on Tuesday, another batch lands from Staind, Metallica, Jimi Hendrix and Elton John. Still to come are Ozzy Osbourne, Green Day, Frank Sinatra, Phish, Usher and "Farm Aid" DVDs.

"What's fascinating is that DVDs are now becoming more a part of the regular curriculum, as opposed to being extracurricular," says Ty Braswell, vice president of new media for Virgin Records, which has DVDs coming Nov. 26 with Lenny Kravitz, Smashing Pumpkins, the Gorillaz and Ben Harper.

Until this year, Braswell says, the commercial music video release "was very seasonal.... Even at this time last year, we only thought about it to make something in time for Christmas. Now it seems like I'm almost always expecting a conversation about some potential bonus DVD or a promo DVD or figuring out what kind of DVD we can do with this artist or that one."

Several factors are driving a burgeoning role for music DVDs that has all the markings of a boom.

DVD players are the fastest-selling consumer electronics product in history, according to the Consumer Electronics Assn. As prices drop, they're selling at a rate of more than 2 million a month, and a CEA spokeswoman estimates that 30% of American households now have at least one DVD player.

Music DVDs themselves, whether marketed on their own or packaged as a bonus with audio CD releases, are much harder to duplicate or distribute via Internet file-sharing services. That gives record companies something extra to entice consumers to buy rather than download.

With far superior sound and video capabilities, the DVD is showing signs of grabbing music fans far more than video titles did in the VCR age.

Music video sales never much topped 1% of total music sales over the past decade, according to figures from the Recording Industry Assn. of America. This year, that percentage is expected to almost double.

That still adds up to 2% of the market, but the picture is digitally clear: Any growth is good news during a CD sales slump.

"For us, it's huge," says Bob Feterl, Southwest region director for Tower Records. "We have one of retail's biggest market shares because our stores have some of the larger DVD sections. One reason it hasn't exploded more is that most other retailers don't devote the space to it. They still treat it as a niche category.... The stores that really put it in everybody's face will really do well."

-- Randy Lewis

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