For Those About to Rock, We Have Always Low Prices*

Monday, June 09, 2008 | 08:30 PM

Last year, we noted that the Eagles had "Disintermediated the Major Labels" by selling the CD to consumer via Wal-Mart -- no label necessary.

How did that work out? Not too shabby: The Eagles’ double disc, “Long Road Out of Eden,” sold 711,000 copies in its first week and three million since, according to Nielsen SoundScan. Ironically, the disc is available used at Amazon ($7.98) or in MP3 format for $10.98 -- but if you want a new CD, its Wal-Mart or nothing.

Journey was another big 1970/80s band going the Wal-Mart route, with Fleetwood Mac's management now also in discussions with the big W.

Up next: Veteran rockers AC/DC. Via the WSJ, we learn:

"Wal-Mart is expected to pull out the stops to promote the AC/DC album, the band's 16th studio release, which is to come out in the fall and hasn't yet been titled. Such a push -- including prominent displays of CDs in stores and heavy advertising -- could yield blockbuster sales, in an environment in which blockbusters are increasingly rare. Columbia Chairman Steve Barnett, reached by telephone, declined to comment. Wal-Mart spokeswoman Melissa O'Brien didn't respond to requests for comment about AC/DC.

But even as it strikes novel deals with a handful of artists and labels, Wal-Mart is preparing changes in its approach to selling the vast majority of music. It is unclear what the upshot of those changes will be, but one likely scenario involves cuts in the number of music titles the chain carries.

Wal-Mart executives, frustrated by perennially declining CD sales, have been quietly exploring changes in their approach to selling music. The company has described different versions of its potential new strategy to different players in the music industry."

What's noteworthy about these deals is that they all involve dinosaurs who's best days are long behind them, going to Wal-Mart for their promotional muscle. Now if Wal-Mart cut a deal with any band that wasn't cranking out albums in the 1960s, '70s, or '80s, I might think there was something very interesting afoot. Say, a Radiohead or a Coldplay or Sarah McLachlan.

But no. The newer bands are going to the internet, rather than WAL-Mart. Their fans skew younger, and are more comfortable on line; Many of them are quite international, and domestic US sales matter less.  Lastly, there is something decidely unhip about Wal-Mart that simply doesn't call out to Beck.

Sure, I love classic rock. But whgen it comes to music, I guess I am more of a long-tail, Amazon, iTunes Music Store kinda guy . . .



Eagles Disintermediate Major Labels, ITMS  (November 2007)

AC/DC To Wal-Mart

As CDs Decline, Wal-Mart Spins Its Strategy
Chain Signs Latest Exclusive Album -- And May Cut Titles
WSJ, June 9, 2008; Page B1

For Some Music, It Has to Be Wal-Mart and Nowhere Else
NYT, June 9, 2008



* For you young 'uns, the title refers to a 1981 AC/DC album: For Those About to Rock We Salute You

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Tracked on Jun 10, 2008 1:51:27 AM


Could Wal-Mart "high morals" and required censorship to sell in their stores have anything to do with reluctance of "hip artists" jumping on board with Wal-Mart since it will cramp their style? Further it probably isn't seen as cool to link up with a Wal-Mart exclusive deal.

Posted by: Joe | Jun 9, 2008 9:05:29 PM

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