DualDiscs Do-All Discs Finally Arrive

Test marketed earlier this year, DualDisc is now officially here with the October 26th release of two albums from Warner Music Group (WMG). (Two more WMG DualDisc albums are scheduled to arrive in stores on November 23rd.)

You can be forgiven if you missed all the fanfare and glorious production numbers specifically commissioned to promote this "new music product", as Warner refers to the DualDisc, since there wasn't much of any to be seen. The DualDisc was officially unveiled to a breathless world in August by a few major and independent record companies. DualDiscs combine two widely accepted disc formats, the CD and the DVD, and slap them back-to-back to form one do-all disc. The full-length CD side plays on virtually all CD players while the DVD side is said to be compatible with nearly any DVD player. The plan for new DualDisc releases is to include the full album on the CD side with the DVD side containing the full album "in enhanced sound (such as Surround Sound and/or DVD-Audio or LPCM stereo)". Depending on the creativity of the record label, the artist, and the engineers, an amazing range of special bonus features can also be included on the DVD side. These special bonuses might encompass music videos, interviews, photo galleries, concert footage, and even lyrics (for those songs that it's actually worth understanding the words to).

"DualDisc is an exciting new product that's limited only by the artist's imagination. We're confident that the ubiquity of CDs combined with the multimedia experience of DVDs on a single disc provides consumers an entirely new level of musical enjoyment," enthused Edgar Bronfman, Jr., Chairman and CEO of WMG. Andrew Lack, CEO, Sony BMG Music Entertainment (a DualDisc format supporter), also raved enthusiastically about the new format. "DualDisc represents a dramatic expansion of the music entertainment experience," he said recently. "By combining video, surround sound and web connectivity in a single disc, we are presenting our artists with a broader palette to express their creative vision, while at the same time giving consumers what they told us they want - greater value driven by unique content that brings them closer to the artist. We're confident that this ground-breaking new initiative will help to re-energize traditional music retail."

(Unfortunately, I'm not one of those consumers they spoke with, or I would have told them that I'm looking for better music all around, with artists nurtured rather than pimped, and maybe more affordable pricing, too. But, then, that's just my opinion. I'm sure you were more interested in re-energizing traditional music retail...)

Warner Music Group's first two releases are Simple Plan's Still Not Getting Any... and The Donnas' Gold Medal. Coming near the end of November will be the Grateful Dead's American Beauty and Trapt's new album (coincidentally entitled) Trapt.

Simple Plan's Still Not Getting Any... DualDisc (Lava Records) adds a 20-minute exclusive, behind-the-scenes "making of the album" collection of footage, plus a photo gallery of the band, lyrics, and the entire album in enhanced sound (5.1 Surround Sound and/or DVD-Audio or LPCM stereo). The DVD side of The Donna's Gold Medal DualDisc (Atlantic Records) won't include a treatise on the benefits of self-rising flour over regular flour (or a stunning mix of Olympic photos put to music), but it will feature each track from the album in 5.1 surround sound and high-resolution stereo. As further enticement to the buying public, the Donnas' "Fall Behind Me" music video in surround sound will be included, as well as a 15-minute "making of the video" plus album lyrics. Trapt's upcoming DualDisc release, Trapt, will include seven music videos from the band's debut album - four of which will be live performance versions. The DVD side of The Grateful Dead's DualDisc will contain two exclusive video interviews. One is a "never-before-seen" conversation with Bob Weir about his inspiration for writing the song "Sugar Magnolia". The other lets Mickey Hart inform fans how the album was mixed into surround sound. Song lyrics and a picture gallery of the band are also included.

In a related announcement, Silverline Records intends to make 25 titles available on the new DualDisc format in short order. The DVD-Audio side of Silverline's DualDiscs will "come complete with all the bonus features you've become accustomed to such as videos, photos, behind the scenes interviews, liner notes, and lyrics, etc." Silverline says they will also include DVDLauncher on every disc. Using the ROM zone on the DVD side of the DualDisc, DVDLauncher offers additional bonus features in conjunction with your computer - things like "portable music files that allow you to upload your entire album in surround sound onto your iPod or any portable music device using Dolby headphone technology."

Silverline has big plans for DVDLauncher.com, a site that will offer "renewable bonus content such as photos, bonus tracks, lyrics, web links, artist and album info, and new release schedules, all of which are continuously updated." Once you purchased and registered a Silverline or Myutopia DualDisc, your on-line account keeps track of all the releases you've registered and provides instant access to exclusive title-specific features and artist information from any computer connected to the Internet.

Silverline and Myutopia's November 2nd DualDisc releases are:

  • Roy Ayers Live at Ronnie Scott's
  • Blondie The Curse of Blondie
  • Blues Traveler Truth Be Told
  • Cool Yule Allstars Big Band Christmas
  • Robert Cray Time Will Tell
  • The Hiss Panic Movement
  • Living Colour Collideoscope
  • Lynyrd Skynyrd Then & Now
  • London Symphony Classic Christmas
  • London Symphony Handel's Messiah
  • The Mavericks The Mavericks
  • Curtis Mayfield Live at Ronnie Scott's
  • Jane Monheit Come Dream With Me
  • Jane Monheit Never Never Land
  • Gary Moore Back to the Blues
  • Josh One Narrow Path
  • Queensryche Tribe
  • Joey Ramone Don't Worry About Me
  • Styx Cyclorama
  • Taj Mahal Live at Ronnie Scott's
  • Geoff Tate Geoff Tate
  • Tipper Surrounded
  • Utah Symphony Orchestra The Nutcracker
  • Widespread Panic Ball
  • Widespread Panic Don't Tell The Band
Don't see anything you like from Silverline or Myutopia? Universal Music Group will be issuing some new DualDisc titles, scheduled to be available November 23rd. They include the following:
  • Jamie Cullum Twentysomething
  • Keane Hopes and Fears
  • Diana Krall The Girl in the Other Room
  • Nine Inch Nails The Downward Spiral
  • Snow Patrol Final Straw
Of course, it remains to be seen whether music retailers will truly embrace the new format and give it the promotional umph - not to mention critical shelf space (more than just the traditional cardboard stand up display) - needed on their selling floors. While we know it's extremely early in the new format's life; as of today when you search Amazon.com for "DualDisc" all you get is a suggested link to a Yu-Gi-Oh! Duel Disk Launcher by Mattel. (It does have an Average Customer Review of 4+ stars, though.) A search of Tower Records, on the other hand, brings up 25 titles. Surprisingly, even a search of Walmart.com gives a result: Simple Plan's Still Not Getting Any... And it's priced about $4.00 less than the version that includes a separate CD and DVD in the same package. (While I hate to use Walmart as the bell weather for technological acceptance, the fact that they're familiar enough with the DualDisc term to have it come up as a search result may indicate that the format has a real retail future after all. Unfortunately, straight DVD-Audio and SACD don't fare as well in Walmart.com searches.)