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Tuning Up Packaging

11 Jan, 2004 By: Jessica Wolf

Music DVD sales have been a bright spot in troubled times for the music industry, but placement and packaging of the product can be schizophrenic.

Should it be packaged like a DVD in an Amaray case or come in a CD-like jewel case, which consumers already identify with music?

Major record labels have taken to adding a DVD element to a CD release or vice versa in jewel case packaging and have found success with it. The top-selling music DVD of the year, according to Nielsen SoundScan, 50 Cent's New Breed from Interscope Records, is a jewel-cased DVD with an included three-track bonus CD. But the No. 2 title of the year, Warner Music Group's Led Zeppelin DVD, is in a traditional Amaray case.

“My impression is that if you're going to put a DVD in a jewel case, it's because that DVD is to be looked at as the added value to the album that you're releasing, and obviously there are tons of those coming out. But if you're looking for a buyer to look for a music DVD, they expect it in an Amaray package,” said Michael Krumper, EVP of Artemis Records, which is putting out Warren Zevon's Inside Out and Steve Earle's Just an American Boy DVDs through Koch Distribution.

“That's where they keep all their other visual material, and I think a consumer would almost feel like the DVD would get lost among their CDs,” Krumper said.

Palm Pictures was among the first audio/visual suppliers to offer CD-plus-DVD releases with two titles in July 2002. Palm's most recent music DVD success story has come with its line of DVDs highlighting the work of acclaimed music video directors Spike Jonze, Michel Gondry and Chris Cunningham. All these arrived in double-disc Amaray cases with bonus booklets.

Dual Packaging an Option
Meanwhile, on another title, Def Jux's Revenge of the Robots, the supplier offered retailers an option: Amaray or Digipack, a format that fits snugly into a jewel-case-sized retail rack.

One retail account chose to buy half of each option and cross-stocked the title, said Lisa Nishimura, GM of Palm Pictures.

“It's really a question that should be hashing itself out pretty quickly because DVD is expanding so quickly as a major force at retail,” Nishimura said. “So much of how studios and labels are going to package music DVD is based on the end user.”

Retailers Are on the Front Line
Speaking on a music DVD panel at last year's VSDA conference, Best Buy's Gary Arnold said his chain tries to pick up a jewel case option whenever it's offered.

A lack of consistency across retail accounts, with different chains buying and merchandising in many different configurations, adds to the confusion, Nishimura said.

Cross-merchandising music product in CD sections and vice versa is a valuable component for the genre regardless of what kind of package the product arrives in, according to many suppliers.

“I think labels and studios would love it if we could just figure it out and say ‘this is the standard,' but really it's a matter of staying open and always keeping your retailer and your end user as your priority, but at the same time, keeping intact the artistic integrity of the product,” Nishimura said.

For example, Image Entertainment's prolific music DVD catalog is almost exclusively released in the DVD-identified Amaray case.

Eagle Rock Entertainment, which produces musical events for TV airing then turns them around for the DVD market, is also fully entrenched in the Amaray camp, according to company president Steve Sterling.

The jewel case is the cheaper option, simply because as a packaging element it is ubiquitous in manufacturing and usage, but Amaray keeps the perceived value of music DVD high, Sterling said.

“DVD packaging is still a very valuable delivery system in that, yes, you get the shiny round disc, but we still find it valuable to put added materials into [the Amaray case] like small posters, background information, photos,” he said. “We still believe the consumer values that additional part of the DVD entertainment experience and the pressure to discover whether to go to the small jewel case so you can be in the small music bins is really a perceived pressure. There really isn't a clear signal yet [from the consumer].”

The Hybrid Dilemma
If and when a hybrid disc with a DVD on one side and a CD on the other comes into use, the dilemma will intensify.

“It's kind of the holy grail,” Krumper said. “If the hybrid CD/DVD becomes a reality, that's going to present some interesting challenges, especially if you're going to release a new album with DVD material on the other side that is equally compelling.What that comes down to is, what's the main piece and what's the added value or are they all equal, and I think that's going to come up more and more.”

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