Warner Spins DVD-Inspired Physical Format, Lots of Extras

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Despite its lucrative history, the CD has become a bear in the digital era.

It’s lack of content protection remains a legacy that labels have been unable to shake, and its bundled approach has become increasingly undesirable to music fans.  In an open letter penned in February, Steve Jobs pled with labels to drop DRM protections, arguing that 90 percent of all product sold is in an unprotected form.  “So if the music companies are selling over 90 percent of their music DRM-free, what benefits do they get from selling the remaining small percentage of their music encumbered with a DRM system?” Jobs asked.  “There appear to be none.”  EMI took the bait, though other majors have been stuck in a between a theoretical rock and a practical hard place.  And nightmarish attempts by Sony BMG to layer protections into the workhorse CD have made any reattempts incredibly risky, especially alongside an intensifying drop in CD sales.

Against that backdrop, retailers and label executives pondered the physical possibilities at the annual NARM (National Association of Recording Merchandisers) conference in Chicago this week.  Brainstorming sessions allegedly surrounded a possible successor to the CD, though pitfalls proliferate.  Against that backdrop, Warner Music Group showcased a new physical concept called MVI, a modified DVD that stands for Music Video Interactive.  Among the guinea pigs is a new Rush CD, Snakes & Arrows, delivered by the wholly-owned Roadrunner.  According to retail information, the album will receive a limited-pressing of 25,000 MVIs, a format that stuffs a number of video, audio, and digital assets into one disc.  Among the goodies, Rush fans will receive a high-quality album in 5.1 Surround, a collection of MP3-based downloads, and extras like lyrics, wallpapers, screensavers, video exclusives, and a digital booklet.  The Rush disc, playable on DVD players, CD- and DVD-ROM drives, and many gaming consoles, will retail for $23.98.  Others expected to test the format include The Flaming Lips and Linkin Park, both signed to Warner Bros.