Universal Music Group is launching a joint venture with music direct-response pioneer Ira Pittelman that will bring the major into the infomercial business. The initial project from the new venture, d

Universal Music Group is launching a joint venture with music direct-response pioneer Ira Pittelman that will bring the major into the infomercial business.

The initial project from the new venture—dubbed Universal Music Media—will be a 144-song, nine-CD boxed set of 1970s soul music. The collection, priced at $129, will be promoted with an infomercial hosted by Isaac Hayes. Three other undisclosed projects are also in development. The venture marks the first foray by a major into music infomercials.

“We are using television as a medium to reach the older demographics, the 40-plus market, who still love music but don’t have time to hang out in record stores anymore,” Pittelman says. Pittelman previously was affiliated with Time Life, which dominated the music infomercial field for the last decade.

Although UMG has been involved in direct-response sales through its PolyMedia unit, the new venture takes the company deeper into that sales and marketing channel, says Bruce Resnikoff, president of Universal Music Enterprise, UMG’s catalog division.

Direct-response marketing is done in several ways. Short-form direct-response marketing is used to sell greatest-hits packages by having consumers call an 800 phone number for a five- or six-week exclusive period, before the albums are released to retail. The long-form infomercial direct-response campaign can run for six months or longer. The packages are then sometimes offered to retail, but usually in a different form at a reduced price.

Pittelman’s first Time Life infomercial was a classic country package, which he says sold more than 1 million copies in the United States and another 250,000 units in other markets. Pittelman co-founded direct marketer Heartland in 1982 with the Welk Music Group. Time Life purchased Heartland in 1996, and Pittelman stayed on to run the company through 1999. At that point, he formed his own company but remained affiliated with Time Life.

When that deal ended, Pittelman, who is also a well-known producer of Broadway shows, says he had a couple of offers on the table, but went with UMG. “I have a 25-year relationship with Bruce, and Universal has 35% market share on catalog and its management is not afraid to be innovative,” he says.

Resnikoff says the deal gives UMG the opportunity to work with the man “who basically invented the infomercial business as it applies to music."