By Alex Veiga
SAN DIEGO - Recording companies looking to wring more profits out of music sales are hoping to sell retailers on a new hybrid CD that offers standard CD audio on one side and the enhanced sound, video and other media capabilities of a DVD on the other.
Dubbed the DualDisc, it was the focus of a rare united presentation by recording companies at gathering of music retailers this week.
The DualDisc comes at a time when some in the music industry speculate whether music fans have come to devalue the 20-year-old CDs compared to the varied content available on DVDs. Recording companies say the higher quality sound and multimedia content they can put on a DualDisc will enable them to offer a better value to music fans.
"The entertainment media has been moving toward visual elements over the last few years," said Jordan Katz, executive vice president and general manager of BMG Distribution. "It's just natural for visual elements to enter in music as well."
While many labels have experimented with CD releases that included companion DVDs with concert footage, videos or other media, music executives tout the DualDisc as a more convenient and streamlined way to deliver both on one disc.
On a DualDisc, the CD side has Red Book standard audio playable on most CD players. The other side of the disc is playable on most DVD players, and holds DVD-compatible material.
The CD side can hold a full album and the DVD side can hold the full album in an enhanced sound format such as Surround Sound, DVD-Audio, or LPCM stereo, the record companies said.
"Convenience is clearly one of the major driving points here because we have had success with the CD-DVD combos," said John Esposito, president of WEA Corp., the distribution arm of Warner Music Group.
"To have a consumer have one disc that can provide a multitude of experience is a logical step to making their experience better," Esposito said.
Ventura record store owner Brandon Salzer wasn't entirely convinced. He has concerns the DualDisc will be doubly vulnerable to becoming scratched.
"How many times do you see someone put a CD upside down on top of the stereo?" said Salzer, part owner of Salzer's Records. "I'm a little skeptical of the DualDisc. I think it's not going to be as valuable as an added bonus DVD."
Salzer said he does like that the recording companies are moving toward providing more content. But since they already are paying for the added video or other materials to be included in the DVD, he wonders why they don't simply give it to consumers in separate formats.
"They're trying to cut their costs, and I'm not sure that's really for the better in terms of the consumer," he said.
Other retailers greeted the DualDisc positively.
"DualDisc is a compelling new product; a proposition that we believe will help drive sales," said Don Van Cleave, president of the Coalition of Independent Music Stores.
Several of music labels tested the DualDiscs in two U.S. cities earlier this year.
The recording companies say they're confident the DualDisc will be compatible with most devices, including portable CD and DVD players, game consoles and personal computers.
Several releases are planned nationwide beginning in October, including from David Bowie, Miles Davis, A Simple Plan, The Donnas and Nine Inch Nails. Executives wouldn't discuss pricing.
The companies developed the project together and plan on handing it over to an independent entity to manage, said Erica Birke, a spokeswoman for the DualDisc campaign.
The record companies who developed the DualDisc are EMI Music, Universal Music Group, Sony BMG Music Entertainment, Warner Music Group and 5.1 Entertainment Group.