I am a real advocate that videos/DVDs only contain material is strong, usable, etc. Id rather have a video with two or three killer usable items than five volumes of fluff. I state that upfront because of what I am about to say LOL. I totally understand WHY three volumes has become the mainstream way of marketing. It is very important to realize this is BUSINESS. If it was always a matter of breaking even financially then L&L, A-1, Murphys, Hermetic Press, Meir Yedid, Kohler, Kaufman, etc. would NOT be doing this. So Bill, you are partly right it IS to line the pockets but I dont necessarily think that is bad as long as the product is a good product.
To plan, film, edit, produce, and release a video and/or DVD is not cheap process. There are tons of costs associated that you probably would not even consider, and some you would, including but certainly not limited to: performers fee, travel and lodging and food expenses for performer, camera crew fees, film, rental of any additional equipment not in stock, editing fees, food/beverage (for guests at shoot), spectators fee (sometimes small fees will get paid to a few select people to ensure a few pleasant to look at spectators i.e. model types- are there), authoring fees, graphic design fees for video sleeves and DVD cases and ads, reproduction fees, film costs for printing, advertising costs, shipping costs, etc. As I mentioned earlier, a hit release in magic may only be 1500 to 2000 units. When you then look at wholesale rates, jobber rates, etc. it quickly becomes apparent that doing one volume is a losing proposition financially. Please dont misunderstand it doesnt make sense to do it financially BUT I DO feel that a multiple volume shoot should NOT be done unless it is warranted (i.e. the performer has enough STRONG material for how many ever volumes).
Part of the problem is our own magic community. I cannot even stress how much illegal duplication is going on. That REALLY cracks into the profit margins of some of the producers mentioned. Youd be amazed that even in such a relatively small market how much that eats into things and you have to remember this IS business thus it needs to make financial sense to continue.
The rip offs come in a number of ways including but not limited to: people who dupe videos for friends, shops that rent video (this drastically hurts sales as people will buy and watch one time or illegally dupe the rented video the shop buys one instead of several copies and it just keeps recycling), and those that share videos.
DVD sales are significantly higher than video sales and I feel one of the main reasons is is that it has been harder to dupe them. However, even this is changing. You may have read in the latest MAGIC Magazine mention of L&L having their Malone DVDs illegally duped. There is some scumbag somewhere ripping them off and thus hurting all of us. So, you may ask, why not just sue these people to put a stop to it? Well, quite honestly there is simply not enough money IN magic. By the time a lawyer gets involved you have eaten up more than youve lost. And most shops or people that are illegally duping or renting (when the video advises not to) arent worth going after as they dont have a large pot of money to win. Its important next time you see someone illegally duping a tape or a shop renting a video that it is not supposed to rent that you point it out and take a stance. If, as an example, L&L is loosing money Louis can simply close up shop and retire and wed be sh*t out of luck as we wouldnt be seeing the many wonderful releases in the can including Tommy Wonder, Ted Lesley, Richard Osterlind, David Regal, Daryl, etc. In the end WE are the ones who suffer. It may seem like no big deal if you see this happen once or twice but these quickly add up. I am sure youve heard that shoplifting raises the price we all pay for consumer goods and this is basically the same thing.
Part of the problem is also a misunderstanding of the business aspect of magic. I recently read a post where an individual, who I have a great deal of respect for, advised people not to buy from their favorite shop but to get it directly from the creator. I know this individual had the best intentions in mind and I too am all for supporting creators BUT think about this If the creator gets a retail sale he is happy. However if the shops get those orders instead they will be happy that a new item is moving and making money from them. Thus they may pick up a dozen or more units (yes at wholesale but that still ads up to more than the single sales). They will also push it more if it is doing well for them. So they order more and the creator or producer gets more orders. It is common to always instantly steer sales to the creators when, in fact, it would behoove everyone to really support their favorite dealers and direct sales that way instead. In the long run this is more beneficial for EVERYONE including the creator. Ive SEEN it happen where shops cannot compete with an aggressive creator so they dont carry or push and item. The creator does better initially but in the long run if he had supported the shops and worked with them (instead of being a competitor) hed sell many many more units. Thus there are a lot of misunderstandings about the business aspect of magic and more and more people get into releasing items without truly understanding these important distinctions. Ultimately this hurts as well.
OK I digress but I think the above points ARE important and relative.
Multiple volumes are not made to screw us (the consumers). I honestly feel that way. Instead they are done to make a project possible. I can GUARANTEE you that there would NOT be a Bill Malone, a Tommy Wonder, a David Regal, a David Roth, etc. shoot if there were not multiple volumes BECAUSE the producers would lose money very very quickly. By the time youve paid these top professionals (who are taking a cut from what theyd be making performing but are mostly doing it out of love of our art) and paid all of the other costs I mentioned above (and more) and compared that to what a single video would make theyd lose money almost instantly. Again, I am NOT promoting fluff just trying to address the business side of things which is typically overlooked. Its almost looked upon as bad that L&L, A-1, Murphys, Hermetic Press, Meir Yedid, Kohler, etc. are making money Im not sure why in any other industry if you are financially successful you are regarded highly for that.