Image is everything
The Nirvana box illustrates the trend towards including more visuals in pricey music collections.
Already a common component of standard CD releases, the bonus DVD is gradually making its way into pop music’s grand artifact, the elaborately packaged, multi-CD career retrospective.
By 21st-century digital standards, the box set is an old-fashioned touchy-feely relic, yet it’s considered immune to the technological epidemic that many predict will devour little silver discs, cardboard packaging and brick-and-mortar stores.
Still, enhancements never hurt, and the DVD explosion means consumers already are comfortable with the format and eager to add eye candy to their listening experience.
“People just love DVD, and it’s such a well-established format that it makes sense to start capitalizing on that,” says Robin Hurley, senior vice president for artists and repertoire at Warner Strategic Marketing, which added DVDs to this year’s box sets for Black Sabbath and Peter, Paul & Mary.
“Eventually, probably all music will be on DVD,” he says. “I don’t know how quickly, but maybe in the next few years. Adding DVDs to box sets is part of building the bridge toward listening to music on DVD. We’re also taking short steps with dual discs. These days, everything has to have the feel of multimedia.”
The DVD in the Black Sabbath box contains a concert, Live at the Beat Club. DVDs in boxes by Michael Jackson and Judas Priest also boast live performances. The Nirvana box DVD holds previously unreleased video of nine songs performed in 1988 at bassist Krist Novoselic’s mother’s house in Aberdeen, Wash., plus the In Bloom video and 10 live clips, including early footage of Smells Like Teen Spirit. Artists as disparate as Bon Jovi and the Trans-Siberian Orchestra also added DVDs to new box sets.
Though video stars Madonna and Duran Duran tend to release stand-alone DVD sets, less visually active artists “can collect rare clips and promo videos that can whet people’s appetites,” Hurley says. “You can flesh out a box with some interviews or electronic press kits that give true fans interesting insight.”
When box sets began appearing in the 1980s, few artists being showcased had a rich video, or even photographic, archive. Consider the scarcity of Robert Johnson images. But now that the MTV generation is toasting itself with splashy box-set flashbacks, the video vaults are bursting.
Image is everything