HE 2003: DVD-Audio Marketing Council to Promote and Educate

HE 2003: Eight companies have announced the formation of the DVD-Audio Marketing Council, an industry body whose goal is to promote the format, including software, players and the advantages afforded to consumers.

The founder members of the council include Warner Music Group, BMG, EMI Recorded Music, 5.1 Entertainment Group, their subsidiary Silverline Records, Meridian Audio, Dolby Laboratories and Panasonic MEI. The involvement of Meridian and Dolby comes as no surprise as both companies have a vested financial interest in the success of DVD-Audio, but the presence of both Bertelsmann Music Group and EMI, two major record labels, adds considerably to the notable level of support already afforded by Warner Music Group and 5.1 Entertainment.

The promise of a focussed PR body acting on behalf of DVD-Audio should benefit the format; currently it suffers greatly in the face of a concerted and dedicated marketing campaign by the rival SACD camp. Whereas to date the promotion of DVD-Audio has been the responsibility of individual labels (some of whom simply do not have available funds for marketing their products let alone a format), SACD is championed by the corporate might of Sony and Philips, fronted by a team of recognisable figureheads who attend every industry convention and album launch to promote their wares. SACD has a finely honed direction and purpose; nothing will stand in the way of world domination. Over on the other side of the battleground, DVD-Audio meanders slowly along, humming Bing Crosby songs and stopping every few moments to admire the view.

The disparity between the two camps has been clear to myself and other industry commentators for some time. For example, here at High Fidelity Review we have to obtain each individual DVD-Audio review sample from the label responsible – and some simply ignore our requests. Conversely, Sony, Philips and their subsidiaries around the world are happy to send huge boxes of discs from many different labels. The situation is also mirrored when it comes to obtaining the material used in some of our news stories; a recent request to the DVD-Audio press department at Dolby Laboratories for a statement following the passing of the five hundred-title milestone (something you would think they would be eager to talk about) simply went unanswered. Most SACD news comes to us, whereas with the exception of 5.1 Entertainment, WMG and TACET, we have to go out hunting for DVD-Audio stories.

Last year, when discussing the disparity issue with John Kellogg, General Manager of Multi-channel Audio and Music at Dolby Laboratories, I suggested that the need for a focussed approach to the promotion of DVD-Audio was paramount if the format is to survive, and I even put forward the name of a highly respected industry veteran who was uniquely qualified to head the team. However, at that time John didn’t think the idea would fly, for the very same reason that had previously plagued all DVD-Audio promotion, the format’s lack of clear direction and leadership – a classic chicken and egg situation.

But that has all changed, apparently. Now we have a new industry body that is said to be a one-stop resource for all technical, press and marketing information related to DVD-Audio. Craig Eggers, Dolby Laboratories’ consumer technology marketing director, as reported by TWICE, described the council as

“…a loosely knit group whose sole purpose is to promote DVD-Audio.”

However, one wonders if the effectiveness of this “loosely knit” group is already unravelling. Here at High Fidelity Review we work on a daily basis alongside representatives of all the companies involved with the new council, yet not one of them felt the need to share the news of their formation with us. It is rather ironic to see a body, whose responsibility is promotion and education, fall at the first fence by failing to promote themselves. An inauspicious start indeed, but it does mean things can only get better…