Consumer-driven “2+1” hybrid series a hit on five continents

LONDON, December 9, 2004 –– Eighteen months after asking consumers in three European countries how they preferred to buy back-catalogue recordings by their favourite artists, Universal Music International has found that listening pays dividends.

Releases in the company’s consumer-driven audio/video series, Deluxe Sound + Vision, have now sold more than one million copies worldwide. The “2+1” CD/DVD combination is shaping up as one of the music industry’s most successful new products, spurred by the dramatic increase in the popularity of the DVD format.

Furthermore, the Deluxe Sound + Vision concept – that is, two CDs and one DVD in one package, which generally sells at retail for around €30/£20 or the local equivalent – has been accepted in five continents. The million-plus unit sales have come from titles released by Universal Music companies in Europe, North and South America, Asia and Australia. Further strong sales are anticipated during the Christmas and New Year’s gift-giving season.

Universal Music is the first company to make a serious commitment to packaging the CD and DVD formats under one brand. Among the artists whose sound and vision have been released in this configuration so far are: Abba, Bond, James Brown, Sheryl Crow, Mötley Crüe, the Jam, Elton John, Marvin Gaye, Jimi Hendrix, Kiri Te Kanawa, Kiss, Fela Kuti, Paco de Lucia, Luciano Pavarotti, the Police, and Squeeze. Moreover, Universal Music has placed successful local artists into the Deluxe Sound + Vision series in a number of countries, including Argentina, Brazil and Hong Kong.

To date, the single most popular Deluxe Sound + Vision title is Abba’s “The Definitive Collection,” which has sold more than 85,000 copies, and even topped album charts in Denmark and Hong Kong. The package contains 37 songs by the Swedish supergroup, and 35 video clips. Other best-selling titles include those by Bob Marley & the Wailers, the Carpenters, the Cure, Dire Straits, and INXS.

Deluxe Sound + Vision was created out of detailed consumer research conducted for Universal Music International last year in Europe’s three largest music markets: the U.K., France and Germany. The survey, undertaken by RPM Research, set out to find out what buyers wanted – and did not want – in the way of music back catalogue.

Consumers shaped the outcome by expressing a preference for the “2+1” audio/video combination, and its value for money. The UMI marketing teams refined and tested the idea in late 2003, and nine initial releases yielded collective sales of more than 300,000 units in Europe. That success led Universal Music to expand the range this summer – there are now more than 50 titles available – and to extend it into other parts of the world.

The CDs in each Deluxe Sound + Vision release offer an in-depth career retrospective, with up to 40 of each featured artist’s best-known recordings. The DVD features live performances or promotional videos, or, in some cases, documentary and interview material. The discs are produced in a DVD-sized digipak housed in a slipcase, also containing a full-colour booklet.

Bert Cloeckaert, Senior Vice President, Strategic Marketing & Commercial Affairs, at Universal Music International, said, “Consumers’ enthusiasm for the idea of this ‘2+1’ package clearly pointed us in the right direction, although we didn’t expect the result to be so positively received in the marketplace, nor so quickly. It’s rewarding to see that new product concepts can be successful, provided we leave our assumptions aside and gain insights into how consumers really want to acquire their favourite artists’ catalogue.”

New releases in Deluxe Sound + Vision are being planned for 2005.

Universal Music International is a division of Universal Music Group, the world’s largest music company with wholly owned record operations or licensees in 71 countries. Its businesses also include Universal Music Publishing Group, one of the industry’s largest global music publishing operations.

Universal Music Group consists of record labels Decca Record Company, Deutsche Grammophon, DreamWorks Records, Interscope Geffen A&M Records, Island Def Jam Music Group, Lost Highway Records, MCA Nashville, Mercury Nashville, Mercury Records, Philips, Polydor, Universal Music Latino, Universal Motown Records Group, and Verve Music Group as well as a multitude of record labels owned or distributed by its record company subsidiaries around the world. The Universal Music Group owns the most extensive catalog of music in the industry, which is marketed through two distinct divisions, Universal Music Enterprises (in the U.S.) and Universal Strategic Marketing (outside the U.S.). Universal Music Group also includes eLabs, a new media and technologies division.

Universal Music Group is a unit of Vivendi Universal, a global media and communications company.