Rhino horns in on shopping net

Rhino Records, one of a handful of labels leading the direct marketing charge and doing big business with it, has pacted with QVC, the home shopping network, to hawk its wares.

The first fruits of the new pact will be a Willie Nelson boxed set, “The Classic, Unreleased Collection,” sporting never-before-released tracks and available exclusively through the QVC offer.

Nelson also will appear on the channel, in a one-hour special specifically produced to herald the release.

While he may not be personally wooing callers like the channel hosts, Nelson will be discussing the highlights of the discs, and taking questions from callers.

The set consists of three CDs or four cassettes featuring 60 songs. The package also contains an illustrated background booklet of more than 50 pages, written by critic Rich Kienzle.

Included in the $ 50 package, which took 18 months to select, are Nelson’s first recording from a rare 1957 single, demos and masters cut in the ’60s and ‘ 70s for Pamper Music and Atlantic Records, a selection of live concert recordings and an entire unreleased album from the mid-’80s called “Sugar Moon.”

Rhino compiled the set, which ships today, in conjunction with Willie Nelson Collections. The bulk of the material was licensed directly from Nelson, who worked with Rhino on a 1990 greatest-hits compilation, “Night Life.”

“We hope to make this cable shopping’s first gold record,” said Allan Strahl, president of Willie Nelson Collections. “We are all strongly committed to prove the viability of packaged music on QVC.”

Home shoppers also will be able to secure Nelson merchandise, including his “My Times” video, sportswear, and a Country Music Hall of Fame commemorative plaque. Nelson was inducted into the Hall last year.

At 61, Nelson continues to release albums, despite being without a major label recording contract. Columbia Records let Nelson’s contract lapse last year.

In addition to Rhino’s set, Scotti Brothers Records has issued “Willie Nelson: The Early Years,” and Justice Records will release “Moonlight Becomes You,” a collection of recently recorded pop classics, later this month.

Rhino has several direct marketing irons in the fire, including infomercials hyping its pop classics collection and direct mail offers touting compilation sets.

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