DVD Format Sparks Music Video Sales

The record business has always treated music video as a promotional expense. Music videos were originally made for one-time use on variety shows on broadcast television, then for MTV and the other music channels on cable. The biggest music video artists have had concerts and collections for sale on VHS videocassettes, and music video has sold enough copies to earn a place in video and record stores.

This year, though, in the transition from VHS to DVD, sales of music video have expanded dramatically. Sales on DVD are more than twice what they ever were on VHS, and the record labels have responded by increasing the number of DVD music video titles in the stores — and by discontinuing the VHS format for most music video titles.

Lower prices surely have something to do with the increase in sales. DVDs are easier to manufacture than videocassettes, and that has translated to a $5 price cut for many of the longer video titles. At a price around $15, an hour-long video collection may cost no more than a music CD, making it an easy choice for music fans.

The major reasons for the boom in music video sales, though, have to do with the convenience of the DVD-Video format. The smaller size makes it easier to collect and store, disks are sturdier than tapes and easier to handle, and music fans can instantly cue up songs the same way they do with audio CDs.

For record labels and recording artists, the bottom line is that they now have a reason to hope to make a profit on their music videos. This change in the market is bound to change the way music videos are produced. Previously, videos were made to appeal to television viewers and the programming committees at MTV. Now, a video can be made to be sold and viewed at home. This won’t lead to a drastic change in the look of music, but video directors will look for ways to add more depth and personality to videos, the little touches could make a fan who has seen a video 15 times on MTV feel compelled to purchase it in order to watch it again.

The trend toward purchasing videos could lead to a change in pop music itself. Currently, the most influential ranking in music is the weekday countdown on MTV’s TRL. TRL rankings are driven by viewer requests. In radio, music directors will tell you that the song a music fan requests is most likely to be a song they haven’t yet purchased. Requests drop off after a few weeks as fans buy a new album. Part of the reason fans go to some trouble to request videos is that it hasn’t been practical for them to purchase the videos.

If music fans get in the habit of buying videos, you can expect them to make fewer video requests for TRL. A change in the pattern of requests would mean a different mix of songs on TRL and, ultimately, changes in the kind of music that is being heard.

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