Zeppelin Gives Retail Whole Lotta Money
NEW YORK (Billboard) – Led Zeppelin’s incendiary performances shook the world of rock’n’roll in the 1970s. Now retailers are hoping the band can do for DVDs what it did for the 12-string guitar.
The band’s Led Zeppelin DVD (Atlantic) had a record-breaking first sales week, and the title’s success may be the exception that proves the rule about the nascent music DVD category. A related three-CD set, How the West Was Won, debuted at No. 1 on The Billboard 200.
Record label executives and retailers believe that while music DVDs could be a godsend to the music business, more than a few kinks in the way they are marketed and merchandised must be ironed out before it truly takes off.
“This is a configuration that we hope will save our business,” says Vicky Germaise, senior VP of marketing for Atlantic Records.
Shipments of music, fitness, documentary, and special-interest DVD titles in the first quarter more than doubled compared with the same time period last year, according to a recent report from the L.A.-based DVD Entertainment Group (Billboard, May 10).
Additionally, music DVDs have accounted for a steadily increasing portion of overall DVD releases since the format’s inception in 1997, according to weekly video publication DVD Release Report. Last year, for example, the category comprised 13% of total releases. In 2001, music DVDs accounted for 12% of all releases.
Though releases and shipments are increasing, large-scale consumer awareness campaigns for music DVDs have been slow in coming.
“Say for instance that 8 Mile comes out on DVD,” says David Levesque, head music buyer for the Troy, Mich.-based Harmony House chain. “There’s a huge campaign on television, so everyone knows about it. That just does not happen in the world of music. Led Zeppelin was an exception.”
Led Zeppelin DVD, in conjunction with the day-and-date release of How the West Was Won, was backed by an extensive promotional campaign that kicked off May 1. Both projects were released May 27.
Retailers are hopeful that day-and-date releases could increase interest in music DVDs.
“When you have a CD and DVD released the same day, it is much easier,” says Mark Higgins, video buyer for the Albany, N.Y.-based Trans World chain. “We can utilize the synergies and feature them together on a new-release rack.”
Consumers may be having trouble finding newly released music DVDs because of the many different ways the category is displayed at retail. “Music DVDs could be in the DVD department with movies,” Higgins says. “They could be mixed in with CDs. They could be in the music section at the beginning or end of a row.”
These issues did not hinder the two-disc Led Zeppelin DVD, which set a record for highest single-week music DVD sales with 120,000 units, according to Nielsen SoundScan. The project’s record is in the stand-alone music DVD category, which excludes DVD/CD hybrid projects. Recent hybrid titles from 50 Cent and Josh Groban have earned higher single-week sales than Led Zeppelin DVD.
Led Zeppelin DVD is also No. 1 on this issue’s Top Music Videos chart.
How the West Was Won sold 154,000 copies in its first week of sales, according to Nielsen SoundScan.
Led Zeppelin DVD beat the record set by Capitol Video’s Back in the U.S. DVD from Paul McCartney, which sold 61,000 units in its first week of release in late November, according to Nielsen SoundScan.
Several titles have come close to McCartney’s record since last year. EMI’s Beatles Anthology sold 59,000 copies in its debut week this April, and An Evening With the Dixie Chicks sold 48,000 units in its first week on sale in February.
Even though retailers surveyed by Billboard stocked the Led Zeppelin DVD in different store sections, it was so sought-after that placement did not seem to matter.
“The title far outdid our expectations,” says Storm Gloor, director of music for the Amarillo, Texas-based Hastings chain. “There’s just not a lot out there visually from Led Zeppelin. We placed it in front of our music department.”
Harmony House’s Levesque says that the chain usually places music DVDs in their own section near films, though this project was displayed with the new Led Zeppelin CD in multiple locations around the store.
“Every now and then, like with Led Zeppelin, we would do that,” he notes. “There are certain cases where that’s a no-brainer.”
Most label executives agree that displaying music DVDs near the act’s CD projects is the best way to increase music DVD purchases.
Atlantic co-chairman Val Azzoli says, “It is imperative that DVDs are stocked right next to CDs. They are music DVDs, not film DVDs. If a kid wants to buy a Led Zeppelin DVD, why wouldn’t he go to the Led Zeppelin music section?”
PACKAGING, STOCK ISSUES
Arista Records senior VP of sales Jordan Katz believes that packaging a music DVD in a CD-like jewel case instead of the larger DVD clamshell case will help the category even more.
“When we released DVD singles in the clamshell cases, we had moderate success,” he says. “When we shifted over to jewel cases, it put the music DVD in the music section. Sales were three or four times as much as when they were packaged as a clamshell. That is one of the defining ways in how music DVD will grow.”
But many industry executives say DVD packaging needs to be distinct from CD cases.
“It’s one of the most bizarre trends in the business,” says Ed Seaman, VP of sales and marketing for Music Video Distributors. “In every trade publication, it says that the CD business is declining. You read in every other article that DVD is hot, hot, hot. We believe in the strength of the DVD format and having it look like a DVD package.”
Having space to stock a variety of music DVDs is also an issue, according to Seaman. “We’d love to see music DVDs take up more shelf space,” he notes. “It’s a forgotten area for some retailers.”
Many retailers say that the quality of many music DVDs is too poor to warrant more space and that there are not enough new releases coming out in the category.
“There’s a lot of room for growth in the music DVD category,” says Dave Alder, senior VP of product and marketing for the L.A.-based Virgin Megastore chain.
“There’s an enormous audience still to be reached if the quality of products improved. The Led Zeppelin DVD proves that there is a huge potential for music DVD. For us, music DVDs represent about 10% of our sales but only 3% of total releases.”
Like many other labels, Atlantic plans to increase the number of music DVDs it releases each year.
It now has a deal with JVC, which will supply video cameras to every band on the label in an effort to create more visual content for eventual music DVDs. For Led Zeppelin DVD, band member Jimmy Page spent a year searching archives for visual material and contacting anyone that might have bootleg material.
Details about when the first titles stemming from the Atlantic initiative will be released or from which band are not yet available.
The label is also going to aim for high-quality projects, such as Led Zeppelin DVD. “What I hope doesn’t happen is that there is a flood of incompetent product,” Atlantic’s Azzoli says. “We have a tendency to kill or overmilk good ideas in this business.”
Zeppelin Gives Retail Whole Lotta Money