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The Four Majors Announce DualDisc’s Launch In October With 50 Titles Print E-mail
Thursday, 26 August 2004
A consortium of record labels, including EMI Music, Sony BMG Music Entertainment, Universal Music Group, Warner Music Group and 5.1 Entertainment Group/Silverline Records, announced on August 24, 2004 plans to finally introduce DualDisc. DualDisc is a two-sided disc made up of a CD on one side and a DVD on the other. In addition to a full album on the CD side, the DVD side provides the full album in enhanced sound (such as Surround Sound and/or DVD-Audio or LPCM stereo), and also includes a wide range of special features, such as music videos, interviews, photo galleries, web links, concert footage and lyrics. Industry bigwigs like Edgar Bronfman Jr. (WEA), Andrew Lack (Sony BMG) and Doug Morris (Universal) seem to be fond of the new format, especially when their interest in it is compared to their support (or lack thereof) for DVD-Audio and or SACD over the past few years. With CD backwards compatibility, the DualDisc may have executives’ attention because of its potential to be sold in the same bins as traditional CDs. But better than the CD, DualDisc has the ability to add significant value to the discs the record industry sells, including high resolution (24 bit 192 kHz) stereo and 5.1 surround sound, as well as video content.

Critics of DualDisc suggest that in order to make the disc be physically thin enough to work in most (if not all) players, the larger storage capacity DVD 9 disc employed for the most feature-laden DVD-Audio titles needed to be sacrificed for a DVD 5 disc. Industry insiders in the disc manufacturing business say that it may soon be possible to manufacturer a DVD 9 disc on the DVD side of a DualDisc. However, it is unlikely we’ll see the larger-capacity disc at the October launch.

While one title was officially announced for the DualDisc launch from the group Five For Fighting, the other 49 were mysteriously absent from the news release. Mystery about which titles are to be released is nothing new. Sources who sit in on the meetings between the major labels about DualDisc who asked to remain nameless tell Audio Video Revolution that fear of anti-trust action is paramount during the conference calls and that an actual anti-trust attorney oversees the topics of discussion for the meetings and/or conference calls.

Because of these legal fears, even the majors don’t necessarily know which titles will hit store shelves this fall. Consumers can be pretty sure to see the titles from the test marketing campaign, which include offerings from Audioslave, AC/DC and Dave Brubeck. Looking more inside the industry’s deals, you might see some A-List titles (perhaps the likes of Bonnie Raitt) come from EMI, thanks to their deal with DTS, a top producer of surround sound mixes.

The potential of DualDisc is huge because the new disc is a way to sell Generation X and Y customers “albums” that include more value for their current $14.99 investment. Most importantly in the value proposition for younger listeners is the addition of video content. As more auto manufacturers adopt surround sound in the coming years for standard and aftermarket car audio systems, music mixed for surround sound will be even more valuable. Will DualDisc reign supreme over music retailers for 20 or more years? Very unlikely – but the audio/video-oriented disc may prove to be a needed clotting agent for the vast bleeding the music business has been suffering from over the past few years. But make no mistake, it will take many thousands (not hundreds) of A-List, well mixed and mastered titles to be released to even catch the attention of the non-audiophile, record-buying customer. Fifty titles is a good start, but if DualDisc is going to even remotely be a success, I recommend the majors start booking some studio time to mix, remix and remaster their entire catalogues as soon as possible. Even if DualDisc isn’t the wave of the future, surround sound on satellite radio and high-resolution discs like BluRay will be and the labels need to avoid being caught without any product to sell when those technologies hit the streets in years to come.

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