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Watch Out, Top 40!

3 May, 2006 By: Jessica Wolf

A trio of sleeper-hit music DVDs came out over the past couple of months — and they're about as different as can be.

Razor & Tie Feb. 14 released the kid-themed music DVD We Are … the Laurie Berkner Band. The disc not only debuted at No. 1 on the Billboard/Nielsen SoundScan music DVD chart, but also it reigned there for six weeks. It jumped back to No. 1 the week ended April 16.

Parents know Berkner, who writes and performs music for kids, through her TV appearances, said Mike Krumper, SVP of marketing for Razor & Tie.

“This release was the first opportunity for parents to pick up a DVD and have Laurie performance videos in their homes for their kids,” he said.

The DVD, with its bonus CD, also was the first family title to get a boost from Starbucks, having been featured on the counter at the coffee chain and in its Hear Music locations for a month, Krumper said.

We Are…the Laurie Berkner Band vaulted over new music DVDs from hot artists during the week of April 16: Destiny's Child's Live in Atlanta (No. 2), My Chemical Romance's Life on the Murder Scene (No. 5) and Death Cab for Cutie's Directions (No. 11).

On the strength of Berkner and another kid-related title, Kidz Bop 9, Razor & Tie had its biggest Easter sales week ever.

Miles from Berkner's kidvid and also giving the Top 40 stars a run for their money is Barry Manilow, whose music DVD is enjoying the limelight at No. 4 on the Billboard/SoundScan charts.

Rhino Entertainment March 28 released Manilow: Music & Passion — Live From Las Vegas, the first of a series of DVDs from the crooning superstar. It debuted at No. 1.

Rhino is thrilled with the Manilow DVD, which has sold more than 40,000 units so far and continues to have strong legs, said Sig Sigworth, VP of video for the supplier.

“We look at this as an evergreen title,” he said.

Manilow's promotion of a CD release with appearances and performances on such hot TV shows as “Dancing With the Stars,” “American Idol” and countless talk shows helped DVD sales, Sigworth said.

“We know that Barry has a huge core fan base, and the success of his album rekindled the fans and made them realize what an incredible performer he is,” Sigworth said.

On a quieter, but no less pleasantly surprising, scale is Palm Pictures' Be Here to Love Me, a documentary about songwriter Townes Van Zandt, which debuted its first week of release (March 14) at No. 13 on the Billboard/SoundScan music DVD charts.

“It had a great chart debut,” said Lisa Nishimura, GM for Palm. “But what's really nice is taking a look at the [sales] spread and seeing a nice cross-section of accounts. We've had a really beautiful, healthy mixture of account types, and that tells us word-of-mouth is growing.”

The most intriguing part of Be Here to Love Me's success is that a lot of people, even music lovers, may not have known Van Zandt's story or his work very well, Nishimura said.

This is where word-of-mouth really comes into play, she said.

Palm has an “organic and esoteric” marketing campaign planned to support the eclectic title after street date, including creating limited-edition T-shirts that contemporary artists who are Van Zandt fans can wear on tour.

Artists like Jack White of the White Stripes, Steve Earle, Cat Power and Conor Oberst (aka Bright Eyes) have been receptive to the idea, Nishimura said.

Filmmaker Jonathan Demme, a Van Zandt fan who directed the recent documentary Neil Young: Heart of Gold, is a big fan of Be Here to Love Me director Margaret Brown. He has been very supportive of the film, even giving Palm an “incredible” pull quote for the box art, Nishimura said.

“It's nothing that we're shoving into people's faces,” she said. “We're just offering it, and they are embracing it because of their admiration for Townes.”

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