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Singles on DVD — a Lonely Market

4 May, 2004 By: Debbie Block

The single appears to be the perfect format to showcase DVD-Audio's attributes. It has long been the way for music consumers to discover new artists. Now, it could be a way to discover a new format.

However, with the exception of one title from The Eagles, DVD singles have only been available in the video format — and even then only in a very limited amount.

With the exception of BMG, few music labels have supported DVD singles. In fact, Jordan Katz, formerly SVP of sales at Arista and now head of BMG Distribution, was the only major executive who spoke about the format to Video Store Magazine.

Katz said he still sees the potential in the DVD single because “the marketplace is clearly moving toward entertainment software containing more visuals, such as enhanced CDs, DVDs, games, computer software, etc. Consumers are spending more of their leisure time engaged in some sort of screen time.”

Katz worked closely with Tower Records to launch DVD singles a couple of years ago.

There are still only about 20 DVD singles in the marketplace, estimated Kevin Cassidy, EVP of sales and merchandising for Tower.

The Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA) does not track releases of DVD singles as it does music video, DVD Video and DVD-Audio.

A different take on the singles market came last year from The Eagles with their exclusive Best Buy promotion of the DVD-Audio single, A Hole in The World. Competing music retailers were up in arms over the exclusive release, and that controversy overshadowed the fact that this was a unique product. In addition to a traditional stereo mix, this release offered a 5.1 mix as well as music video footage of the song. The disc also includes a making-of and outtake reel, a “backstage pass” to a few minutes of behind-the-scenes footage of the band's Farewell Tour and a bonus audio CD single of “Hole in the World.”

Response to this title “was incredible, and if this was someone's first DVD music experience, chances are they were impressed by it,” said Brian Lucas, spokesperson for Best Buy.

Tower's Cassidy said while his company wholeheartedly supports the single format, he's not sure a strong future exists.

Label executives have always worried that singles cannibalize album sales, but that isn't necessarily the case, and especially not for video, Cassidy said.

“Without singles, we eliminate the entry-price level for the kid who doesn't have 15 or 20 bucks in their pocket,” he said.

The rash of illegal downloading can be somewhat correlated to the lack of a “discovery channel” for music consumers, he added. DVD Video singles usually have a suggested price of $7.98 — a nice entry point into the music DVD market.

Last April, Sony Music released Tori Amos' A Sorta Fairytale special edition DVD EP single.

The disc was priced at $9.98 and debuted on Billboard SoundScan's top 10 music DVD chart its first week of release. The included video stars Amos and Oscar-winner Adrien Brody, and the disc includes a short making-of featurette and interview with the singer.

Music video shipments overall were up 35.6 percent in 2003 and DVD-Audio shipments were up only .8 percent, according to the RIAA.

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