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Singing The Blu's

30 Jul, 2010 By: Chris Tribbey

Like every other category, music on DVD has seen a serious slowdown in releases over the past few years.

After hitting its peak with 1,057 releases in 2006, the category saw its total releases nearly halved to 591 in 2009, according to data from The DVD & Blu-ray Release Report. As of July 23, 482 music DVDs have been released this year.

But home video music isn’t disappearing, it’s just moving — to Blu-ray.

“I think there’s a very strong market for Blu-ray music titles, especially among music fans still buying discs,” said Bill Hunt, editor of TheDigitalBits.com. “A lot of the audiophile fans had hoped for SACD and DVD-Audio to take off more than [they] did, so they could enjoy their favorite recordings in the highest audio resolution, and that didn’t happen. Blu-ray music titles fit that niche nicely.”

Lossless audio, surround sound, full 1080p video of fans’ favorite artists — the advantages for music titles on Blu-ray are obvious. According to Release Report data, 182 music Blu-rays have been released as of July 23, putting it behind new theatrical, catalog, special interest and direct-to-video in categories with the most Blu-ray releases.

“A well-mastered Blu-ray of a live concert is damn near as good as being there in the front row at the show,” Hunt said. “So for a serious music fan, it’s a great thing to have. I’m guessing you’ll see a lot more of them in the years ahead.”

The loaded and well-received Woodstock: 3 Days of Peace & Music Director’s Cut set from Warner Home Video, MGM’s The Last Waltz, Criterion’s Complete Monterey Pop Festival, Sony BMG’s Dave Matthews & Tim Reynolds: Live at Radio City Music Hall, Interscope Records’ U2: 360° at the Rose Bowl, any of the classical releases from Naxos, Eagle Rock Entertainment’s Queen: Rock Montreal & Live Aid, are all music titles that have taken advantage of what the format can offer.

“I think we are seeing a really good response to concert discs on Blu-ray,” said Adam Gregorich, administrator for the Home Theater Forum. “I already own over twice as many concerts on Blu-ray as I have on DVD. I never really enjoyed watching concerts on DVD as I never really felt like I was there. Blu-ray has changed that.”

He said he uses his music Blu-rays as demo discs for friends and family who need convincing about Blu-ray.

“Rather than just watch a song for the quick demo, they stay for the rest of the disc and they all walk away amazed,” he said. “Even though it’s an older release, Dave Matthews & Tim Reynolds: Live at Radio City Music Hall is still one of my favorites and a go-to Blu-ray for me.”

Klaus Heymann, president and founder of Naxos, called Blu-ray “a valuable, high-end medium” for music. Naxos, with 116 Blu-ray releases, sits behind only the major studios in terms of total Blu-ray releases, according to Release Report data. Naxos actually has released more Blu-rays than Paramount Home Entertainment, if you subtract discontinued titles from the studio.

“We’re not looking at huge sales, but there’s so much you can do with the format,” Heymann said.
When classical composer John Corigliano saw the Blu-ray work Naxos did with his symphony Circus Maximus, he was blown away with the results, according to Heymann.

“It was immediately obvious how much better the higher bit rates are,” Heymann said.

The Blu-ray will be released in October with a DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 mix and a PCM 2.0 mix.

“Blu-ray fills a niche for music,” Heymann said.

That niche status has a drawback, said Mike Carden, president of North American operations and EVP of Eagle Rock Entertainment, which has released 50 Blu-ray titles. Retailers, convinced consumers want only new theatrical releases on high-def, treat the music category as inferior, and when they do stock music titles, they cut the price too low, he said.

“It’s kind of a fragmented, tough market,” he said. “Most of the retailers are trying to push the price down at wholesale. It’s almost impossible for us to do. If we give it to them for free, we won’t be able to get to the next project.”

He also sees a problem with some music Blu-ray releases not being up to snuff in terms of sound quality.

“You can’t do it on the cheap,” he said. “You ruin the marketplace and turn consumers off. I don’t want people coming away from a [Blu-ray] experience saying, ‘That sucked.’”

Still, Carden sees nothing but a bright future for the category on high-def.

“It’s not going to be a savior of our business, but the fact so many consumers are turning to Blu-ray, it’s helping,” Carden said. “It’s so much more like the live experience and music is obviously best served up live.

“There’s nothing else like Blu-ray, other than being there.”


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