I recently dove head first into the new Dvd-Audio format. It was inevitable with the quick flow of technology that something better would eventually come along. Well, Dvd-Audio is born and is in the middle of a format war with Sony's own format SACD. It will be very interesting if both formats are able to succeed and coexist, but I think that is doubtful. I had a chance to discuss Dvd-Audio with Silverline Records President Jeff Dean. I think this interview will prove to be informative as well as very interesting. A big thanks from me goes out to Silverline due to their support of this section of the site. I really appreciate the labels effort. On to the interview!

Heavy Metal Resource: Hi Jeff! Thanks for taking the time to do this. I wanted to start by having you give everyone your background in the business.

Jeff Dean: I began my music business career as a local marketing rep in Chicago for A&M Records in 1987. I rose up the ranks within the sales department eventually relocating to Los Angeles and later becoming V.P. of Sales and Field Marketing for A&M. I left the company when they closed the doors as a result of the merger between PolyGram and Universal in 1999. I began speaking with the 5.1 Entertainment Group in early 2000 about plans to launch a new label specializing in a new music delivery format called DVD-Audio. The company was looking for someone with extensive sales and marketing background to establish a foothold at retail for their new Silverline label.      

HMR: So how long has Silverline Records been around?

J.D. : The Silverline Record label was established with the release of our first 17 classical compilations in July of 2000. The parent company, 5.1 Entertainment Group, developed from a company called Highway One Productions that was established in the early 90’s specializing in the creation of enhanced CD’s for large number of major labels. So you can see that the company’s roots in combining albums with significant extra features go quite deep.  

HMR: Looking at the dvd-audio format, what do you believe will be the key to its success?

J.D. : Without trying to sound too simplistic, once someone hears a good surround mix on a DVD-Audio disc they become converts. It has been nearly two decades since the recording industry has been able to bring a new format to the market that was truly better than anything that was available before. When I say “better,” I’m not just referring to the high resolution of the audio. The surround sound experience and the bonus features make these discs a better value for the consumer. I believe the format benefits by being a DVD product and the fact that the discs can be played on DVD players, DVD ROM drives or DVD based game consoles (X-Box, PS2).

HMR: With the format war ongoing with SACD, what do you feel sets the two formats apart?

J.D. : The compatibility issue I just mentioned is not to be underestimated. The ability to hear DVD-A, in surround sound, in your home theater system, your computer, your game console and your car make DVD-A far more versatile. I find it ironic that the Sony Play Station 2 will play DVD-Audio, but won’t play an SACD (which is a format developed by Sony and Phillips. Additionally, the bonus features available on DVD-Audio (videos, photos, liner notes, audio commentaries, etc. are not possible on the SACD format.     

HMR: Have you heard at this point how dvd-audio is fairing against SACD?

J.D. : I honestly don’t have figures on SACD as we don’t deal with that format. I only know that there are more hardware manufactures making DVD-A players than there are making SACD players. I know that here in the U.S. more of the major music companies are supporting DVD-A than SACD.

HMR: With so many titles to choose from,  how do you go about choosing albums for remixing?

J.D. : When Silverline launched we believed that it was necessary to provide a wide diversity of repertoire quickly so that those interested in the new DVD-Audio format would have a wide variety of music to choose from. That commitment to diversity remains, as does our intention to release a mix of new and old titles. When we choose to remix an older title, we are looking for a historically relevant piece of music that can benefit from the 5.1 remixing process. This means that we always attempt to use the multi-track masters from the original recording sessions. With newer titles, the location of the multi-tracks isn’t as difficult. However, we don’t have the benefit of hindsight to know which titles are going to hold up over time. Often, it becomes a matter of personal taste as to what titles to pursue.

HMR: I see some Sanctuary titles in your catalog. What other labels do you have access to?

J.D. : We are releasing music from the King Biscuit Flower Hour archives (our From The Front Row…Live series), Warlock/N-coded Music, Tell It Records (Aaron Neville’s label), Iliad Records and a few others. I can say that we are in the process of negotiating with many other labels as well as looking at doing some deals directly with artists that control their own masters.

HMR: With the task of taking an album from what would be stereo sound to surround, how is it approached in the studio and how is it approved?

J.D. : As I alluded to earlier, the most effective method for creating an exciting surround mix is to have the original multi-track masters at the disposal of our mixing engineers. The engineer literally rebuilds the song from scratch, but instead of cramming all the sound into two speakers and 180 degrees, they have six speakers and 360 degrees. Each instrument and vocal have more of their own space within the mix. The engineer has the benefit of the stereo mix to act as a roadmap toward the end result. No one would appreciate a surround mix of their favorite song, if it didn’t resemble the way they originally heard it. We’re not interested in rewriting history, rather we are attempting to give the listener an experience that is closer to the original performance, be it in the studio or on the concert stage.

Wherever possible, we encourage the participation of the artist, the producer or engineer of the original recording. They often give us some very helpful background that yields a better mix. We are obligated to get the approval of the record label that licensed us the recordings, but we often go beyond that to get the artist involved in the approval process as well. After all, it was their creation in the first place and we have a healthy respect for that and do not want to abuse our privilege of working with their masters.   

HMR: Recently the Dvd-Audio Marketing Council was formed. Talk a bit about this.

J.D. : The DVD-Audio Council is a collection of companies that support the DVD-Audio format and are dedicated to working together for the format’s success. It is made up of consumer electronics hardware manufacturers, recorded music companies, technology companies like Dolby Labs and disc production companies.

HMR: In which ways will the council push to get the format on solid footing?

J.D. : The council will work to increase consumer and retail awareness for the DVD-Audio format. Additionally, the council will be a resource for a wide variety of information relating to the format.      

HMR: What would you tell people to convince them that dvd-audio is the format of the future. Compact disc is still really popular and might be tough to get people to shake from.

J.D. : First off, I don’t think that the CD is going to die a quick death, nor should it. As tremendous as the sales of DVD players has been, the install base for CD is still far greater. CD’s are still cheaper to produce and the amount of time it would take to remix a single major music company’s catalog would be many years. However, if you look at the meteoric rise of DVD as the delivery system for entertainment (movies, games, ROM content and music) one can certainly see that DVD has already been chosen as the entertainment medium of the future. Because CD’s play in every DVD player, there is no need to invest in another home CD player, because the price for a home DVD player is already under $100 dollars. DVD is already beginning to replace the CD in the dashboards of our cars. We are well on the way in terms of hardware. When it comes to titles, I believe that the quickest way to a conversion experience is to listen to an album in surround sound. Once you have had that experience, you’re hooked. The albums are currently selling for the same list price as CD’s, so why not buy the disc that can provide the better experience.    

HMR; I totally agree with you. I would encourage people to go to a demo display at an electronics store. Thew will be amazed. That is what did it for me. Can you mention any titles that are in the works that fans may be interested in?

J.D. : We’re about to release our third Motorhead title, the classic Overkill. The self-titled solo debut by Queensryche vocalist, Geoff Tate is coming any day now to be followed up by the new Queensryche album, Tribe. We’re also going to be releasing the latest album from Living Color, Collidescope, which is going to be absolutely phenomenal in surround sound.

HMR: I really can't wait for some of those titles too. What seems to be your most popular rock or metal title to this point sales-wise?

J.D. : Lynyrd Skynryd –Then And Now, Tesla – Standing Room Only, and  Motorhead – Ace Of Spades are generally the bestsellers for rock. A couple stand out titles that I know your readers would be blown away by are Ministry – Animositisomina and Corrosion Of Conformity – America’s Volume Dealer.

HMR: I have heard the Corrosion of Conformity and will attest to how good that one sounds. Dvd-Video as most know is region coded. Are Dvd-Audio titles region coded the same way?

J.D. : DVD-A is not region encoded and will not be.

HMR: That really is great news. That would really close or at least quarantine the global market which I think would just be a hinderence. In parting, is there anything else you would like the readers to know about Silverline or Dvd-Audio?

J.D. : The DVD-Audio format is still in its infancy in terms of titles, mixes and special features. Silverline has been at the forefront with respect to album content from the beginning and we are proud of the innovative and entertaining repertoire that we have. But the creativity and scope of this format is poised to explode as more and more artists become aware of this format’s potential. It is the artist that can, and will, take control of DVD-Audio and the potential it holds for creative expression. We all stand to benefit from that.

HMR: Thanks again for all of the good information Jeff. I do appreciate it!