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

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 . . .

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Previously

Eagles Disintermediate Major Labels, ITMS  (November 2007)
http://bigpicture.typepad.com/comments/2007/11/eagles-direct-d.html

Related:
AC/DC To Wal-Mart   
http://lefsetz.com/wordpress/index.php/archives/2008/06/09/1250/

Source:
As CDs Decline, Wal-Mart Spins Its Strategy
Chain Signs Latest Exclusive Album — And May Cut Titles
ETHAN SMITH
WSJ, June 9, 2008; Page B1
http://online.wsj.com/article/SB121296803253355751.html

For Some Music, It Has to Be Wal-Mart and Nowhere Else
ROBERT LEVINE
NYT, June 9, 2008
http://www.nytimes.com/2008/06/09/business/media/09walmart.html

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* 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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What's been said:

Discussions found on the web:
  1. Joe commented on Jun 9

    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.

  2. VennData commented on Jun 9

    Hip hop multi-channel… er… a… empresario P. Diddy (or whatever they call him for this quarter’s financial results) peddles his high margin output at the W.

    http://www.walmart.com/catalog/product.do?product_id=6561715

    I see a tune feat. Common, Kayne et al coming to the Bentonville behemoth too. How many things rhyme with “Mart?”

    Unfortunately for his shareholders… er… a… posse, Diddly, Piddly whatever… is going the way of Pierre Cardin.

    Final note, it will be interesting to see which sub genres Barrak Hussien Obama embraces, Indie? Hip hop? C&W? (did I really say C&W?) McCain’s easy, but you don’t have a record player no more.

  3. Christopher Laudani commented on Jun 9

    Barry,

    A few statistics:

    (For the week ending June 1)

    Usher’s Here I Stand opens at #1, with sales of 443,000. It’s the biggest opening by a male artist so far this year, topping Jack Johnson’s Sleep Through The Static, which bowed in February with sales of 375,000.

    Coldplay’s “Viva La Vida” jumps to #1 on the Hot Digital Songs chart, with 219,000 paid downloads. It’s the band’s first #1 on this chart. “Clocks,” which has sold 1,066,000 downloads, was released in February 2003, 20 months before the (digital download)chart originated.

    Mariah Carey, E=MC2, Carey Carey’s album has sold 968,000 copies. For the year-to-date, it’s second only to Jack Johnson’s Sleep Through The Static.

  4. guru commented on Jun 9

    Just finishing a two-day trip to Cleveland for my first visit to the Rock n Roll Hall of Fame. Firstly, it’s a nostalgic experience since it brings you close to all the sights and sounds of RnR over the past 50 years.

    But secondly, you can’t help but think the changes in the music itself and its distribution since about 2005 will make the Hall of Fame nothing more than might be a museum of other lost periods in popular culture like vaudeville, TV before reality or folk music.

    Will hip-hop, indie or any other music form distributed over the Internet ever make it into the RnR Hall of Fame 50 years from today? I don’t see how.

  5. Ken H. commented on Jun 9

    Muscle is right. Eagles are in the top five grossing bands ever. Probably right behind the Beatles. I would imagine AC/DC, Journey, and Fleetwood make the top ten. Their popularity crosses generations.

    The others you mention like Beck, Sarah, and Cold Play couldn’t even cover costs of a WM marketing Blitzkrieg. Sorry, I like them too but no way. A waste of time for so many reasons. I don’t believe it has anything to do with the fact that the younger generation is more comfortable on the internet?

    FYI, I don’t know if you have kids but I am more likely to listen to Sarah than they are. They listen to AC/DC, the Eagles, and Journey. LOL.

  6. SmackDabbaDoo commented on Jun 9

    The whole dumbing down or debasing of our musical culture to the lowest common denominator is about wiggered out.

    We’ve been pushed so far in one direction that the regression will probably be so violent that 9th graders will be listening to Opera. I am certainly seeing were they are seeking nostalgia because what they are served up as “talent” – lacks it.

  7. otter commented on Jun 9

    Goodbye great music. No one pays for music anymore and they never will, except on the irrelevant margin.

    Great music doesn’t come off some dude’s iMac with Garageband. Great music takes many talented people with experience working with a variety of expensive gear. These people need to be paid. Unlike junior in the basement with his Macbook, they won’t work for free.

    I hope you enjoy classic rock a lot. Cause you’re going to he hearing the same songs for the rest of your life. No “classic” music will ever happen again. It’ll be junior’s facebook shit music from here on out.

    Thanks, Barry, for your intellectual contribution to the downfall of listenable music.

  8. Lindsay commented on Jun 10

    If an artist wants a big marketing budget, to become famous, or make a living outside of the small money they get from a label, then they have three options.

    1) WAL-MART
    2) Commercial for a popular brand
    3) A movie

    4) LiveNation deals are still up in the air — can they make a non-Madonna or Jay-Z famous?

    Yes. It has something to do with younger people having a general preference for the flexibility that downloads provide. No. People aren’t only stealing music as a result (pure RIAA propaganda and finger pointing). The music industry killed itself. Suing loyal fans, refusing to adopt an internet strategy in a timely fashion, and alienating artists as a result.

    If you’re looking for a traditional music medium that may actually reinvent itself in meaningful ways, look no further than radio. With the labels crumbling, radio is returning to its roots, pre-label insanity. It’s going to be a beautiful thing.

  9. Lindsay commented on Jun 10

    Oh yeah, Otter, you have a bad attitude. There are people who are under 25 who read this blog, like Facebook, and do not put your generation down.

  10. Ren commented on Jun 10

    Brilliant. Bands from the ’70s and ’80s finally realized that their primary audience from back in the heyday are now spending their weekends shopping for produce at Walmart, so why not?

    My guess is that we’ll see Coldplay and Radiohead going the Walmart route in about 20 years…

  11. JMH commented on Jun 10

    “Wal-Mart executives, frustrated by perennially declining CD sales, have been quietly exploring changes in their approach to selling music”

    Warning: Grammar Nazi rant follows…

    How does Wal-Mart announcing to the world that they are doing these direct deals with artists constitute doing something “quietly”? What do the execs at WMT do, get into a conference room and mime their marketing plans to each other? Is it really possible to use AC/DC in the same context as “quietly”? What an idiotic phrase.

    CDs are essentially bulk waste, considering the content is digital and there are much better devices for storing bits. I ripped all of my CDs, then sold them years ago. If anyone gave me a CD, I would rip it and get rid of it. Whenever I buy music now, it’s from iTunes or Amazon. I don’t listen to broadcast radio for music very often, but internet stations quite frequently, and sometimes MusicChoice on the cable box.

    I suppose WMT can sell CDs because they have enough traffic that a few of the shoppers will actually buy a CD. It seems to me that if the labels really want to sell music at brick and mortar stores, they will have to come up with much more interesting packaging…

  12. MarkM commented on Jun 10

    Barry/All-

    While we debate the “oldies” I wonder if there are any fans of Harry Nilsson’s voice out there. I know he was a favorite of the Beatles, especially Lennon, but I hadn’t really studied him until asked to do one of his songs recently. Whoa. What a range, especially on “Without You”. It’s said to have been three and a half octaves.

    I had always put Burton Cummings (Guess Who)at the top of my best male rock/pop vocal list, along with Perry and Orbison maybe, but this guy is right up there.

  13. me commented on Jun 10

    I agree with Ken H.

    Journey, $11.88. You get 11 tunes of new music on CD, 11 classic best of hits on another CD and you get a DVD in concert? What does $11.88 get you on itunes? 8 tinty songs.

  14. EB commented on Jun 10

    Well, each to his own I guess. Frankly, I like the old albums cause of the art work. I prefer the cd to the computer cause I enjoy handling them and they still have some form of liner notes usually.. Some make a case that vinyl sounds better and I like the ritual of cleaning and handling. I prefer to use a brick and morter store front for purchase cause l;ike to go in and handle the merchandise. If my friend’s college age kids are any barometer, kids these days don’t seem to be interested in the quality of the sound as it’s played. Any old compressed fortmat will do

  15. Mike Nomad commented on Jun 10

    @ Lindsay:

    Otter wasn’t putting a generation down, just their music.

    And I would have to agree with him. Spend some time in the music business seeing how The Sausage Is Made, and one of two things happen: You either become a vegetarian, or a connoisseur of cased meats.

    I happen to love cased meats.

    In broad strokes, Otter is correct. An improper understanding of the psychology of music is the root of the industries downfall. The industry could have saved it, and didn’t. And an Army of Beat Box Commandos cranking out the Infinite Timmy! remix will not fair any better.

  16. Mike Nomad commented on Jun 10

    @ Lindsay:

    Otter wasn’t putting a generation down, just their music.

    And I would have to agree with him. Spend some time in the music business seeing how The Sausage Is Made, and one of two things happen: You either become a vegetarian, or a connoisseur of cased meats.

    I happen to love cased meats.

    In broad strokes, Otter is correct. An improper understanding of the psychology of music is the root of the industries downfall. The industry could have saved it, and didn’t. And an Army of Beat Box Commandos cranking out the Infinite Timmy! remix will not fair any better.

  17. Mike Nomad commented on Jun 10

    @ Lindsay:

    Otter wasn’t putting a generation down, just their music.

    And I would have to agree with him. Spend some time in the music business seeing how The Sausage Is Made, and one of two things happen: You either become a vegetarian, or a connoisseur of cased meats.

    I happen to love cased meats.

    In broad strokes, Otter is correct. An improper understanding of the psychology of music is the root of the industries downfall. The industry could have saved it, and didn’t. And an Army of Beat Box Commandos cranking out the Infinite Timmy! remix will not fair any better.

  18. Mike Nomad commented on Jun 10

    Uh-oh. I don’t know why my last post went out three times. Sorry, all.

    Remembering Harry:

    “You broke my heart, you tore it apart, so f*ck you.”

  19. Bob Dobbs commented on Jun 10

    “No one pays for music anymore and they never will.”

    THIS. and, um, just for reference…

    Here’s a link.

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