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Anime Soundtracks Are Music to Retailers' Ears

4 Oct, 2003 By: Edwin De La Cruz

From toys and video games to comics and apparel, anime has penetrated almost every possible medium, and now it's set to take on music with an onslaught of soundtracks.

ADV Films, Pioneer Entertainment, Rhino, Right Stuf Inc. and Tokyopop -- and even traditional music labels such as Domu Records -- have released anime soundtracks, and the number of titles is growing.

“Musicland is the biggest supporter of our soundtrack line,” said Rick Buehler, SVP of sales at Pioneer Entertainment, which recently established ANIMEmusic, a label devoted to marketing these soundtracks. The question is, why now?

“It's the timing,” said Buehler, who believes the genre's infancy stage has passed and that the market can sustain additional merchandise. “What we've also seen is that the fans are so entrenched in the genre, that when they like a certain title, they have a need to own anything related to it.”

The Home of Anime Music
Since the 1970s, Japan has cultured a very profitable and marketable soundtrack business.

With melodic pop songs and orchestral arrangements, such programs as “Astroboy” and “Gundam” have spawned music that can sell just as well as any hit soundtrack by John Williams.

Retail support for these soundtracks wasn't easy to win, but the aggressive sellthrough pricing of the CDs at roughly $15 and strong word-of-mouth have made the soundtracks a hit at stores like Media Play, Best Buy, Virgin and FYE shops.

Pioneer releases about three to four soundtracks per month, and hopes to have more than 25 by the end of the fourth quarter and at least 100 by the end of first-quarter 2004. To increase consumer awareness, Pioneer cross-stickers the products with either “CD Available” or “DVD Available.”

Thanks to loyal fans, retail giants such as Musicland's Suncoast stores have slowly built a reputation as the place to buy anime. Suncoast has become a one-stop shop for anime-related merchandise that includes comics, magazines, apparel and even Japanese candy. As a testament to how confident they are about these products, Suncoast stores are being prepped with anime music kiosks that display the latest releases.

Shawne Kleckner, president of Right Stuf Inc., an anime e-tailer that releases anime music under the AnimeTrax label, believes anime soundtracks should not be placed in the movie soundtrack sections. “The best place is near or next to the anime DVD sections,” Kleckner said.

Anime publishers are also strategically releasing soundtracks simultaneously with DVD releases. Current releases such as Pioneer's X Soundtrack I and Sakura Wars are just a few examples of this growing trend. Meanwhile, AnimeTrax's latest release, Giant Robo Soundtrack 1, and Akira are culled from evergreen anime titles.

A Cheaper Alternative
Just a few years ago it was common for fans to pay $30 to $40 for a Japanese import CD. Domestic releases of anime soundtracks give the anime consumer a choice.

“Fans who dig a show can turn around and snap up the music for less than half of what it used to cost to import it from Japan, and once they get the bug, they keep coming back for more and more,” said Chris Beveridge, Webmaster for Animeondvd.com, one of the Internet's most widely-read anime Web sites. “My own anime soundtrack collection went from a handful of imports that I paid roughly $30 each for, to over two dozen new releases.”

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