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Consumers Growing Into Country Music DVD

15 Nov, 2003 By: Jessica Wolf

Country music programming on DVD is still a niche within a niche, but today's hottest country stars pepper Billboard/SoundScan top 25 music DVD sales charts.

An Evening With the Dixie Chicks from Sony Music is the No. 7 music DVD seller for the year as of Oct. 19; sexy Faith Hill's When the Lights Go Down DVD from Warner Music Group sits at No. 16; George Strait's For the Last Time: Live From the Astrodome from Universal Music is No. 17; Rascal Flatts Live, also from Universal Music, is at No. 19; and BMG Distribution's Alan Jackson: Greatest Hits Vol. 2 DVD rounds out the country crew in Billboard's top 25 sellers.

And, though -- as is the case with other forms of music -- it's the big hot current acts like these that will drive the genre to greater sales prominence, there's plenty of room for smaller suppliers to slip in more nichelike products from classic country acts.

Market Still ‘Underserved'
Eagle Vision has several titles planned featuring icons in the genre, including Hank Williams: The Man and His Music, Conway Twitty: On the Mississippi and A Tribute to Chet Atkins, which street Nov. 25 on DVD at $14.98 each.

“Country music right now is heavily underserved in the DVD market,” said Steve Sterling, president of Eagle Vision. “There's sort of a stereotype that the country music household and fans are not the DVD early-adopter-type households. [But] there's no question there is a willing market there, it's just a question of who's going to bring the production values and a level of marketing that will reach the country music consumer.”

Eagle Vision recently optioned the rights to the 75-title-strong Jim Owens catalog, a collection of performances from country acts from the 1970s and '80s and is in early talks with several current country superstars to develop DVD programming, Sterling said.

Eagle had the Johnny Cash 1977 concert video Behind Prison Walls in the DVD works before the star's death earlier this year and had planned to include a current interview with the classic country great.

Sterling said it's really only a matter of time before more country acts get heavily into DVD as the installed-hardware base continues to grow.

“What we're really seeing, I think in the whole span of the music DVD consumer base, is both ends working towards the middle,” Sterling said.

The higher-income, older baby boomer, early-adopter types are eating up classic rock DVD, he noted, while the younger crowd that cut its teeth on video games is beefing up sales on the urban and hip-hop music side.

“Now you'll start seeing activity in the sort of middle ground, and certainly country music is in that area,” Sterling said.

Plus country acts make a nice fit for home viewing, because they are usually very affable, personable people in general and often favor less flashy concert shows that fans can enjoy from their couch as much as they would in a crowded stadium, he added.

Country Legends on DVD
Kultur/White Star Entertainment were among the first to get into country music on video in VHS' early days, and the company continues in that tradition with its line of Country Legends DVDs featuring programs from stars like Hank Williams, Waylon Jennings, Patsy Cline, Ernest Tubbs, Kris Kristofferson, Willie Nelson and others.

The hardest part sometimes is finding footage of the genre's past greats, said Dennis Hedlund, chairman of Kultur/White Star Entertainment. “The biggest problem is some of these people, when they were at the height of their careers, they didn't do that many TV appearances [or] have people filming their concerts like today. That was too expensive.”

This summer Kultur released The Highwaymen: On the Road Again, featuring a performance from Johnny Cash, Willie Nelson, Waylon Jennings and Kris Kristofferson.

“We're definitely noticing a lot of interest in classic country acts,” Hedlund said, thanks in part to the fact that many of the younger stars are performing duets alongside the folks they grew up listening to.

“I think the record labels that are holding on the Tim McGraws and all these guys that are extremely hot right now are really going to go ahead and pursue these with a gusto,” Hedlund said. “I think they'll be more interested in country music [on DVD] than ever before but it will be the young artists pulling the train and we'll be one of those boxcars that kind of follows along behind it.”

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