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Kultur and the Classics

17 Oct, 2005 By: Jessica Wolf

Before music DVD was a glimmer in most suppliers' catalogs, Kultur Entertainment was releasing classical music content and performance programs to the VHS market.

The company is celebrating 25 years in business and continues to provide a niche-within-a-niche with its “highly collectible” product, said Dennis Hedlund, chairman and CEO for Kultur.

Classical programming has really come into its own on DVD, he said.

The format allows Kultur to turn an opera performance disc into an educational tool, with features that explain what the opera is about, details on the composer and other bonus material.

It's not a mass merchant product, Hedlund said, so the company doesn't measure success in those terms.

“If we sell 8,000 units of something, that's great for us,” he said. “We know how to niche market and how to specialize sales.”

The good news is classical music programming is a collectible item. A Pavarotti fan will snap up anything put out featuring the opera superstar — even faithfully upgrading and replacing formats as they hit the market, Hedlund said.

One of the best-selling and most popular items in the company's catalog is the Leonard Bernstein's Young People's Concerts, which debuted on DVD recently.

Coming Oct. 25 is the release of Leonard Bernstein: The Concert Collection to coincide with the 15th anniversary of the famed conductor's death. The nine-disc set ($99.99) includes concerts from New York, London, Paris, Vienna, Tokyo and Sydney. It's a must-have for orchestral music lovers, Hedlund said.

They'll notice that Bernstein guest conducted and performed “risky” selections, where most visiting conductors would stick to safer compositions when dealing with musicians whose strengths they were not as familiar with — a practice that Bernstein was much admired for.

Kultur has benefited immensely from such bookstore chains as Borders and Barnes & Noble getting more involved in DVD, Hedlund said. The company's DVD product fits right in with the customer base and shopping mentality of the bookstore crowd.

Kultur does healthy business on direct sales to consumers through the company's Web site, Hedlund said. The company also has a strong lineup of country music, with DVDs featuring Hank Williams, The Highwaymen and George Jones, as well as jazz programming from the likes of Nina Simone, Count Basie, Duke Ellington and Billie Holiday.

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