The music industry has for years struggled to develop a new physical format that could spark increased sales by replacing the CD. Now Warner Music Group Corp. is planning an aggressive attempt to address the issue by pushing consumers to buy their music on specially outfitted DVDs.
Warner, the world’s fourth-largest music company, is in the final stages of securing technical licenses that will enable it to sell a bundle of music and extra features on a single DVD, according to people familiar with the matter. The DVD would include a music album that plays in both stereo and surround-sound on a standard DVD player — plus video footage that plays on a DVD player or a computer. There will also be song remixes, ring tones, photos and other digital extras that can be accessed on a computer.
The company plans to make the new format available to its subsidiary record labels for product-planning purposes as early as next week and to introduce the discs to consumers with a handful of titles in October. A full-blown launch is planned for early next year. The hope is to fuel increased sales of both new product and catalog titles, in the process lifting the industry just as the 1982 introduction of the CD boosted sales as consumers replaced cassettes and vinyl albums.
Retailers — who have faced hard times as CD sales have declined in recent years — have been enthusiastic about the new format. “The CD is getting old and tired,” said Jim Litwak, president and chief operating officer of Trans World Entertainment Corp., which owns more than 800 music and media stores, including the Coconuts, Wherehouse and FYE chains. Indeed, MTS Inc.’s Tower Records was recently barred by at least two of the four major music companies from receiving new product, after a dispute over credit arrangements. Interim Tower chief executive Joseph D’Amico didn’t respond to requests for comment.