paidContent - Will Rhino's New 'Digital 45' Find An Audience?

This story was written by David Kaplan.
Rhino has a new gimmick to get middle-aged music fans to buy some more oldies: a download format on iTunes called the Digital 45. Ostensibly tied to what the company tells BillboardBiz is the 60th anniversary of the 45 RPM record, the company has started selling 60 individual “hit songs” that also feature second track (of course, there are no “A-sides” online). The downloads will include a PDF with the singles’ original sleeve artwork. Apple (NSDQ: AAPL) is giving Rhino a special section on the iTunes store’s front page.

The Digital 45 packages range from $1.49 to $1.99. But as with the vinyl 45s—which are still a staple of indie record labels—it’s questionable whether users will want to pay a little more simply for an extra song and old album art. After all, users still have the option of paying $1.29 for Prince’s 1986 hit Kiss by itself—will they really pay another 70 cents for the previously unreleased “Love or Money”? (The latter is also available for 99 cents alone.) Rhino is owned by Warner Music Group (NYSE: WMG), which doesn’t break out results for the unit. Download sales has been one of the few bright spots for Warner Music over the last year. In the second quarter, digital income was up 7.1 percent to $166 million.

David Dorn, Rhino’s SVP for e-commerce and international catalog strategy, tells BillboardBiz that creating an event—like the 45’s 60th birthday, as if anyone was celebrating it—is a good way to get oldies some attention. “If you put a whole lot of them in the store in one shot, then they all sit there. They’ll have their promotion period, and some of them will get featured, but then they just sit in the store. To me it’s more interesting to market them each month and create a program around them and have something new to talk about every month.”


By David Kaplan