4 October 02005

Record labels make their own documentaries

Bob Dylan album sales have registered a tenfold increase in the wake of the Dylan documentary produced by PBS and the BBC. With windfalls like that, it's not surprising that major and independent record labels are getting into the business of making their own documentaries and features.

Mute is among the early UK labels starting to offer podcasts related to its releases. And Universal is reported to be making its own TV documentary 'infomercials' to help sell box sets of its catalogue.

You could see this as a case of the labels aiming to 'be the media' — why rely on the favours of fickle journalists when technologies like podcasting allow you to get promotional interviews directly to an audience. Is this a case of radio and TV broadcasters being dis-intermediated? After all, an interview with Goldfrapp talking through their new album (as featured on the first Mute podcast) is exactly the kind of thing that, twenty years ago, would have been left to the BBC — say with Richard Skinner on a Saturday afternoon.

But these label-originated productions will complement, rather than replace, existing broadcast commissions. Why would Sony/CBS pay to produce their own Dylan feature instead of letting public service broadcasters do it for them? Universal's TV infomercials will apparently cost up to $800,000 to produce, which amounts to a serious commitment.

As featured previously on this site, Universal is also licensing BBC footage and recordings of its artists for commercial use.

What I think these developments show is an appreciation by some of the more far-sighted labels of the value of 'collateral material', both to help promote their artists and to include in future packages for dedicated fans. How long, I wonder, before Mute's podcast and Universals infomercial end up as CD and DVD 'extras' respectively?

Posted by David Jennings in section(s) Curatorial, Future of Music, Music and Multimedia, Podcasting on 4 October 02005 | TrackBack
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