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THE MORNING BUZZ: Why Doesn't the Record Business Take a Cue From the Video Business and Offer More Bang for the Buck?

11 Mar, 2002 By: Stephanie Prange

Retailers at the National Association of Recording Merchandisers convention this weekend were quick to praise DVD and the studios and heap criticism on the record companies.

The CD, they said, costs about the same as a DVD, but the DVD offers so much more -- sound, pictures and extras. This begs the question: Why not offer more with audio recordings, namely more video?

While cassettes and CDs took at hit in 2001, according to the Recording Industry Association of America -- dropping 40.8 percent and 6.4 percent in units shipped from 2000, respectively -- music DVDs as a category took off. The segment grew 139.4 percent in units shipped in the same time period, from 3.3 million units in 2000 to 7.9 million units in 2001. While the growth is impressive, it seems the record companies could be doing so much more. Heck, DreamWorks Home Entertainment sold about 8 million DVD units of the record-setter Shrek alone.

Music video has been an afterthought at record companies. It never really took off on VHS, but DVD seems much more palatable to the record-buying audience. First of all, it looks like a CD. Second, you can skip around from one song to another, like you can do with a CD. And third, the numbers speak for themselves; the category grew while the traditional packaged album forms shrank.

Record companies could offer the kind of extras prevalent on DVD movies -- interviews, bios, behind-the-scenes footage – with more of their releases. Since half the music world wants to direct or act anyway, my guess is they would probably jump at the chance. While video-on-demand is coming, it's much less accessible than audio file-sharing – the bane of the music industry over the last few years. Music videos could act as a bulwark against further erosion in that arena.

Rather than returning to the shrinking well of audio recordings, record companies might find solace in the very business their music retail customers are hailing –- video.

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