The past day or so has been a frenzy of music news, with Britney’s made-up mug all over the place, the music industry’s version of Haley’s Comet (Guns N Roses) coming back into view, new releases galore, and the fallout from the AMAs all getting some play. But it’s an article at Billboard.com yesterday that really got me, and hasn’t let go. Jimmy Iovine, chairman at Interscope/A&M, was initially talking about how mega-acts like U2 and Eminem got pushed back to 2009, potentially impairing his 2008 results. I’m actually with him on the whole “no record before its time” theory, but then they asked him about the Best Buy exclusive for the physical release of GNR, and the impact that has on the music-specific stores. Here’s Jimmy’s response:
I don’t know the answer to that. But when a guy works that hard on a record, you want to give it the best possible chance it has. We found a great partner in Best Buy, and Axl’s new management felt it was a good idea. It looks like it’s going to do really well. I mean, really, really well. Beyond anybody’s expectations.
Okay…I’m gonna call bullshit on this one. Does anyone believe that Best Buy got Guns N Roses more publicity than they would have gotten if EVERYONE had been able to sell the record? At the end of the day, Mister Iovine is looking at his company’s payday (and probably Axl’s), and he doesn’t give a damn about the smaller shops. I read over the weekend about Bart’s CD Cellar here in Boulder that was planning on buying the CD at Best Buy, and then would sell the disc for the same price, just to keep some visibility on the title. That’s just not right. It’s one thing to offer exclusive content on a special edition, but it’s another to dictate the route that a consumer has to follow to purchase their music.
Let’s take it one step further…the only reason Best Buy got on board is because they knew that GNR would bring traffic into their stores, and then you’ve got a captive audience to sell stoves and cell phones and budget DVDs and magazine subscriptions (yeah…seriously). I can’t even walk into a Best Buy anymore, because standing in the checkout line from Hell hurts my soul. But if you want the new CD from the Script, or Robyn, or Noah and the Whale, are they going to be at a big-box store, or are they going to be at a store where that’s their lifeblood? How about that copy of Depeche Mode’s “Some Great Reward” that you just HAVE to have at that moment. You’ll find the Greatest Hits at Best Circuit Target Mart, but I doubt you’ll find anything deeper than that.
So bullshit to Jimmy Iovine. The system is broken, and the three record companies that are left are digging themselves into a deep, dark grave. “Chinese Democracy” is only one title, and you’re not going to be able to prop up your label on one title that’s selling for $10. Fix the business model, and reward the folks that have had your backs from day 1. In case you’ve forgotten, those are the folks that are in the business of selling MUSIC, not the folks who sell music at a loss to sell toasters and paper towels.