Music artists enhance the online experience

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    By Jared Johnson

    Once upon a time, multimedia programs were unheard of on music CDs. Their innovative outreach gave them a noticeable edge over the “average” album.

    Today, innovation may soon swallow itself.

    Although enhanced CDs once seemed to have an added marketing edge, the record industry”s increasing move to the Web may soon send them to the top of the obsolete pile, according to Randy Blosil who produced Kurt Bestor and Sam Cardon”s popular “Innovators” CD.

    Enhanced CDs are music albums that include videos, graphics, HTML documents, or additional software accessible on a computer. The industry is now turning to artists” Web pages to showcase such digital wonders, Blosil said.

    He cited the ease of HTML coding and the widespread use of digital recording programs like Quicktime as elements changing the purpose and cost effectiveness of enhanced CDs.

    “Multimedia on CD-ROMs seems to be static right now,” Blosil said. “It”s almost dead in the water when compared to online capabilities.”

    Blosil has been a driver of the multimedia evolution since commissioning half a million copies of “Innovators” in 1992. The disc was dispersed as a promotional tool for WordPerfect”s 6.0 program and included eleven songs by Bestor and Cardon to accompany the demonstration software. Three years later, Blosil left Novell and founded Treble V Records.

    The music veteran explained that once extra programs are put on a CD, it becomes dated. The “Innovators” release of WordPerfect 6.0 is one example (the latest release of WordPerfect is Version 9). With the Internet, in contrast, you can add up-to-the-minute links and other content for music fans.

    “People don”t put a CD in their computer anymore. They can get so much entertainment on the Web,” Blosil said.

    Not all musicians see enhanced CDs as a dying development, however. Triple-Pearl Award nominee Michael R. Hicks included a music video on his most recent album, “Creations.” To Hicks, the video adds a marketable edge to his album that makes it more enjoyable for listeners.

    “With enhanced CDs, it”s amazing how you can use these tools as a marketing tool as well as something fun for fans,” Hicks said.

    “Creations” includes a Quicktime video for Hicks” song “Road Trippin”,” along with some wallpaper graphics. The solo pianist said that the primary drive behind the bonuses was making the CD more fun and interactive.

    Putting music videos and other extras on an album adds significant costs to CD production.

    Inevitably, musicians must repay their record label for recording fees through royalties. For instance, if an artist wants to spend $50,000 on a couple music videos, their record label will front the cost and require the artist to repay them with each CD sold. If the artist makes 10 percent of the CD”s retail cost as royalty, they will have to sell over 31,000 CDs to make up their debt (assuming each CD sells for $15.98).

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