Monday, November 04, 2002

DVD TO THE RESCUE: Eliot Van Buskirk writing in CNET's MP3 Insider has grasped that attractiveness of re-purchasing your video collection on DVD has had a massive impact on CD sales. That's about as far along the park as we walk with him, though, as he extrapolates that, since people would probably rather pay USD10 for a DVD movie than USD18 for a music CD, the music industry should start to stick out DVDs instead. Now, we would have thought that sentence was crying out to be ended with " adjust its pricing structure in a more realistic downwards direction", ourselves, but let's give him a chance.
He cites the example of Super Furry Animal's Rings Around The World, the first album to be released simultaneously in DVD and CD format. Now, we yield to nobody in our admiration for the Super Furries, but frankly, most of the extra stuff on the DVD looked like pisspoor flash animations knocked up in ten minutes to us. If every album that comes out is going to have large clumsy animations all over it, then the novelty will wear off and the value of the additions will be worn away. If, on the other hand, the record companies are forced to come up with worthwhile video extras for every track, that's going to cost money. And remember how the record industry like to complain about how much they're losing already on nine-tenths of their output? Having to get Altman in to direct videos for the second b-side of the new Shania Twain album isn't going to help with those stretched margins much, is it?
See, the logic here is flawed, and its flawed because it ignores what people really want. There are a couple of acts in the world that might work better visually than aurally - Danni Minogue we'd much prefer if she spent more time in hotpants, less in the studio booth - but beyond Holly Vallance-land, the whole point about music is that its, well, sounds, isn't it? Be honest - when you get a CD with a "bonus video footage" on it, how often do you actually play the video? I've got a stack of CDs at home that promise all sorts of visual delights, and with the exceptions of Metal Fingers In Her Body and Erase and Rewind, I've never played the multimedia element more than once; quite often the claim on the little sticky label that it's got eye-licking delights held on the disc could be absolute bunk, because I don't really buy music to watch. Van Buskirk perhaps doesn't hang out with any music fans, because everyone I know who buys video music compilations also buys the CD version as well, even when the releases coincide. My copy of Just Lookin', the Charlatans video best-of, isn't a replacement for Melting Pot, their album collection. It's an extra treat, for those rare moments when I'm not using my face to point at something else. And, certainly, if it hadn't been a birthday present, I don't think I'd have prioritised getting the DVD at all.
And this is betting without the whole shedload of controls DVD manufacturers try to impose on what you can and can't do with a DVD, where you can play it and when you can listen to it and how many people you can have in your bedroom when you play one. If you want to prove Eliot's well-meaning but wrong, imagine if someone had suggested that the music industry, to fight hometaping, had embraced nascent VHS technology, abandoned making records and just concentrated on making video releases.
Music isn't just a soundtrack.

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