Labels seek boost in sales with DVDs, posters, guitar picks
Hop onto Kazaa or any other file-sharing service, and you are certain to find songs from rockers P.O.D. That hasn't kept the band's Satellite from selling more than 3 million copies since it was released in September 2001.
But to reignite sales at the one-year mark, as as the title track was about to be released as the fourth single, Atlantic Records put out a limited edition of the album repackaged - and priced at $1 more than the standard CD release - with three additional tracks and a DVD with five live-performance videos.
During its first week in the stores, the limited edition of Satellite helped boost the album's sales from 15,000 to 30,000, according to figures from SoundScan.
"This is one of the many things we are trying to enhance our product," says Vicky Germaise, a senior vice president of marketing for Atlantic. "We are trying to encourage ownership of the artist, rather than just the songs."
Back in the days of the vinyl LP, album covers rivaled works of art. Hidden treasures might be found, too, on album sleeves and in extensive liner notes. But as consumers traded the LP's tactile pleasures for the convenience of CDs, the music industry rose a wave of sales success. Album sales rose to an industry high of $14.6 billion in 1999.
Now that sales have fallen, record labels are trying to recapture some of the excitement in tearing open the shrink-wrap of an album by adding multimedia extras. Four on recent releases:
- The first 250,000 copies of Bob Dylan's Live 1975 come with a DVD that has two song-performance videos from the movie Renaldo and Clara, and a surround-sound version of Isis that can be played on any DVD player.
"Anybody who buys this record will put the DVD in first," says Jeff Jones of Sony's
Columbia/Legacy label. "It is a rare thing to be able to see Bob Dylan performing in
1975. It's really a moment in time."
- A special edition of George Harrison's Brainwashed includes a poster, guitar pick and a bonus DVD. Like video liner notes, the disc has footage of the late Beatle in the studio with son Dhani and producer Jeff Lynne. On it, Harrison reflects on how 21st-century phenomena such as traffic jams make him "feel that I'm actually on the wrong planet. I feel great when I'm in my garden, but the moment I go out my gate I wonder, 'What the hell am I doing here?'"
- 500,000 copies of U2: The Best of 1900-2000 come with a bonus DVD with two live performances and a seven-minute video that includes clips of the band on The Simpsons.
- Linking to the Web is an alternative to adding a disc. Matchbox Twenty's latest, More Than You Think You Are, includes a PIN (personal identification number) that allows access to exclusive Internet content. A limited edition of Tori Amos' Scarlet's Walk contains a DVD, stickers, a charm and a map. The CD connects to Amos' Scarlet's Wed site. Even Kelly Osbourne's Shut Up has a Web link to www.kellyosbourne.com.
Limitied editions are not new. Within the past decade, artists such as Janet Jackson and R.E.M. have released specially packaged CDs with additional photos, artwork and a booklet of lyrics.
But within the past six months, record companies have gotten far more aggressive about delivering bonus-laden CDs. "The labels are increasingly frustrated with people either swapping music files or burning their neighbor's CD," says Geoff Mayfield, director of charts at Billboard magazine.
"The special editions were often done to give the fans something different, and the ardent fan would buy each and (the label would) capture early sales."
More recently, he says, "it's a way to especially target those in college, their early 20s or late teens, and get them away from just downloading it."
Other new albums containing bonus DVDs include Korn's Untouchables, Tom Petty's The Last DJ, Foo Fighters' One by One and The Eminem Show.
There strategies can help the music industry convince consumers that CDs are worth their $14 or $15 while piggy-backing on the DVD trend, says Ryan Jones, media and entertainment analyst for the Yankee Group. Jones expects more labels to opt for bonus DVDs, rather than Web links that encourage consumers to "get on their PC and maybe rip and send songs on the Internet," he says.
Kurt Orzeck, managing editor of music magazine ICE, says labels need to be careful with rereleases to avoid penalizing fans. "It's going to be frustrating to the fan who buys the new Foo Fighters album and then (the label) ends up rereleasing the CD with new material."
Some fans are upset. "It stinks that artists do this," says Judy Cain, 38, of Pittsburgh. "Dixie Chicks fans have waited three years for something new, and then within three months another version has been released."
She says she probably wouldn't have waited to buy their latest album, Home, even if she had known. Still, she bought a limited editon to go with her other two copies - one a CD autographed by the Chicks when they performed on Late Show With David Letterman.
"This is obviously a marketing tool to boost sales," she says.