Monday, January 20, 2014

Digiview Productions' generic CDs

For the undiscerning music listener, Digiview Productions created a series of generic, genre-specific collections of instrumental music by anonymous artists in 2005. The series, called the Digimusic Essentials Collection, actually had some credible artists behind it, even though you'd never know it from the bare-bones packaging. 

My coworker Andrew showed me a couple of these Digiview CDs that he bought for 25¢ each at Walgreens. 




The collection titled Pop Rock  features energetic guitar-based rock instrumentals such as "Baggy Pants," "Radio Play," and "Blokes." The CD subtitle describes the music as "energetic hard rock rhapsodies," whatever that means.

The collection titled Jazz Combo features small-combo performances with sax, guitar, and piano solos. The subtitle says "cool, effervescent jazz melodies," but that doesn't accurately describe all of the music within, some of which swings pretty hard. 

The packaging and information are minimal: A one-sided insert and no composer or artist information anywhere. No label address—only a URL (now dead).




Digiview Productions was a budget label that released mostly cheapo DVDs of films that were in the public domain. Walmart sold Digiview DVDs for a dollar each.

Tons of budget DVD companies sprang up in the 2000s before physical media started to die. Today, many of the public domain films that these companies used to exploit are available for free streaming through Netflix, Amazon Prime, etc.

When these budget DVD companies got into the CD business, they usually released either public domain music by known artists (often taken from old radio transcriptions), independent-label recordings that could be licensed for cheap, or deceptive knockoffs of hit recordings. But this Digiview series isn't an example of any of those. It's just generic music. 

The music on Pop Rock and Jazz Combo is surprisingly well recorded and well played. Because of the lack of composer information, I thought at first that these CDs might contain royalty-free music that Digiview dug up somewhere.

Nope. Some of the compositions are listed on the ASCAP website, and many of them are published by a company called Engine Co. 35 Music, which appears to specialize in movie soundtrack music.

A couple of the tracks on Pop Rock (“Minus 14” and “Home Grown Rock”) were written—and presumably performed—by Paul Masvidal, who played in the bands Cynic and Aeon Spoke. He also composes soundtrack music.

"Wid Em" on Jazz Combo was cowritten by Leslie F. Summerfield, a composer of music that has been used in the television shows Castle and Motion.

Digiview produced at least 24 titles in this series:
  • Big Band
  • Bluegrass
  • Blues
  • Contemporary Latin
  • Country Western
  • Dance Club
  • Dance Through the Decades
  • Dinner Music
  • Film Scores
  • Inspirational
  • Jazz Combo
  • Natural Beauty
  • Piano Expressions
  • Pop R&B
  • Pop Rock
  • Relaxation
  • Rock Unplugged
  • Romance
  • Spa
  • Traditional Latin
  • Wedding
  • Classical Workout
  • Classical Serenity
  • Classical Concentration

In 2008, Warner Bros. sued Digiview over patent infringement. Warner Bros. lost the suit, so that didn't sink Digiview. Something did, though, which shouldn't have come as a surprise, because none of these ultra-budget CD-and-DVD labels thrived in the long term. Simitar Entertainment, one of the more profitable companies of this type, was brought down by a copyright infringement lawsuit. 

I've passed over these kinds of generic budget CDs a million times in the cutout bins and wouldn't have paid even a quarter for one of them. So, thanks, Andrew, for letting me skip through these. I was more interested in the series' generic aesthetic than its music, but Andrew said that he listens to the discs occasionally and thinks that—even though he paid only a quarter for each disc—he would have been comfortable paying as much as a dollar. Now that's an endorsement!

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