Live at St. Ann’s Warehouse: DVD + CD

This past June, I saw Aimee Mann Live at St. Ann’s Warehouse in Brooklyn, an intimate little venue just under the Brooklyn Bridge. It was a special evening, with Mann’s performance perfectly in sync with the capacity audience’s expectations. All told, a great concert was enjoyed by the 1200 people in attendance.

By coincidence, the show I saw was video recorded, and just came out on DVD .

Here’s what I cannot understand: The DVD is $15 — but it also comes with a CD of the concert. Will someone explain to me why major labels release 45 minutes of music on disc for the same price as a small label’s DVD and CD ?

Perhaps its Mann’s notorious dislike of her past labels. The New York Times’ Jonathan Van Meter wrote:  "Mann is known for writing clever, disappointed love songs that can also be read as damnations of the music industry."  Her Album "I’m with Stupid" was a thinly veiled reference to Geffen (What label are you with?) as were numerous songs on that disc (Choice In The Matter, Par For The Course, You’re With Stupid Now); The song "Nothing Is Good Enough" off the CD Bachelor No. 2 was reputedly based on a conversation with a music exec.

Mann subsequently dumped her label  (Geffen’s Interscope, mentioned previously), negotiated the purchase of her masters, and set out for own label: Superego Records, part of United Musicians, a cooperative, artist owned label. In a further break with the big labels, her most recent albums can be streamed — for free — at her site (click "listen").

I doubt that releasing a DVD/CD — for the same price as a major label CD — is a money losing idea. Even a 9 camera shoot will be profitible, if it sells modestly. It just goes to show ya how corrupt the major label $15 CD business model is.

Maybe someone with basic math skills can explain to the major labels what they are doing wrong.

UPDATE:  November 28, 2004 12:29pm
A quick trip this morn to Best Buy reminded me that "Coldplay – Live 2003" was a similar DVD + CD; There was also a Sarah McLachlan DVD + CD combo (Mirrorball?)

UPDATE 2:  November 28, 2004 1:32pm
On a hunch, I went ot Amazon’s DVD section, searched fro DVD+CD, and came up with 152 results. These combo DVD+CDs are apparently an ongoing trend, and gaining in popularity . . .

Makes sense — if a CD at $15 is a lousy deal, than a DVD+CD at $15-20 is a pretty good one

UPDATE 3:  November 29, 2004 3:33pm
More DVD+CD: R.E.M. will reissue their entire Warner Bros. catalog on February 15th, with each two disc set including the original album and a bonus DVD featuring the record remixed in 5.1 surround sound, as well as unreleased documentary and video footage.

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  1. dsquared commented on Nov 24

    It’s a financing issue. Live recordings are cheap, because performers usually perform songs live that they’ve already written, rather than needing to take time off to write songs before they can record ’em.

    Aimee Mann also knows that she is good, and doesn’t have a whole labelful of also-ran bands to support, reducing costs further. For a major label recording, the biggest costs are the sunk costs of the advance and the period spent writing the songs, plus the dry-well costs of all the other recordings made at the time that didn’t sell.

    I’m not saying that the music industry isn’t a cartel and indeed I suspect it is. But this isn’t an apples-to-apples comparison.

  2. Barry Ritholtz commented on Nov 24

    Then the question becomes: How much does it ACTUALLY cost to record a studio CD ? The numbers the labels use — recoupable expenses advanced to the artist — are inflated and highly suspect.

    Can a band record a disc for a modest amount of money? How cheaply can a complex, live video recording be done for?

    There’s still something off about the major label math . . .

  3. neuromonkey commented on Nov 24

    I read one breakdown that put the cost of a music CD, including recording, marketing, package design, materials, shipping, etc. at about $2.50 per unit. There were a number of variables and often it came out to less than that amount, infrequently more, but that’s about the ballpark for a major label release.

  4. Tom commented on Nov 29

    It’s dumb to comment about what a CD should cost vs. it’s production cost. Music is art & is impossible to value other than by the purchaser who is willing to part with one’s hard earned money in order to buy the artist’s product. What is the cost of the paints & canvas used by Van Gogh? Should his work be priced based on production costs? This example isn’t perfect because of the ability to easily duplicate the musician’s work for additional sales, but it’s close enough.
    The studios will charge whatever the market is willing to pay regardless of those who believe their business model doesn’t work.

  5. Chris Neal commented on Nov 29

    Um, perhaps it’s because Aimee doesn’t spend a kajillion dollars on marketing.

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