All Articles Tagged "record stores"
by Evette Brown
As two of hip-hop’s elite superstars, Jay-Z and Kanye West are used to being heavily criticized for their decisions. The hip-hop heavyweights are both respectively infamous for different reasons, but having come together to create an album and initiate a nationwide tour might be entering them into a battle that neither one is prepared to wage.
After months of anticipation, their collaborative debut Watch the Throne is set to be released to all nationwide retailers on August 12th. Here’s where the conflict begins.
According to Billboard, rather than releasing the album to all retailers on August 12th, the duo and their record label are following in the footsteps of Jay-Z’s superstar wife, Beyoncé, Lady Gaga, and others by offering iTunes and Best Buy separate preferential windows to sell the album exclusively. From August 8th to August 12th, iTunes will be the only retailer with permission to sell the album. From August 12th until August 24th, Best Buy will be the exclusive retailer with the deluxe edition of the CD.
Even before the official release date, iTunes is sweetening the deal for fans by offering them the opportunity to pre-order the album. With this pre-order comes an exclusive download of “Otis,” Jay-Z and Kanye’s blockbuster single. Other retailers are not admitting defeat in this battle without a fight against the artists, Island Def Jam, and Universal Music Group.
58 independent retailers, including The Music Experience, Newbury Comics, Amoeba Music, Looney Tunes, and Cactus Records penned an open letter to the two superstars, expressing their disappointment for not allowing them to be included in the first week sales of the album and urging them to rectify this tense situation.
According to Forbes, these independent retailers’ response presents a double standard for the MCs. When Beyoncé exclusively released the deluxe edition of 4 to Target, she received zero criticism and the same lack of backlash applied to Lady Gaga and Amazon’s deal which allowed Born This Way to be sold for $0.99 during an exclusive window.
However, the question is, do these independent retailers have valid reasons for protesting against these exclusive windows? Statistics point towards yes.
For superstar artists such as Kanye West and Jay-Z who are guaranteed to sells hundreds of thousands of copies in the first week, the deluxe edition of an album can account from 50 percent to 70 percent of the first two-week sales. Since Best Buy is allowed this two-week window, it guarantees that the retailer will be given an advantage against the competition, including independent record stores.
Based on first-week sales for The Blueprint III and My Dark, Twisted Fantasy, sources are predicting that Watch the Throne will have first-week sales of 400,000 units, with an even split of 200,000 between digital and physical releases. Experts are projecting that the deluxe version will account for 50 percent of digital sales, which indicates that “iTunes and Best Buy will account for 300,000 units. Between the two exclusive windows, 75% of the demand is expected to be satisfied within 10 days.”
Eric Levin, owner of Criminal Records and head of the Alliance of Independent Media Stores, disagrees with Jay-Z and Kanye West’s decision to allow these windows. “A two-week window will be disastrous for music retailers,” he told Forbes.
Carl Mello, Newbury Comics head of purchasing succinctly agrees with Levin. “The main element in all of these exclusives is that label executives forget what is convenient for the customer,” he told Forbes. “Making the album available in certain versions at certain times is not the most friendly thing for the customer, for whom it will feel like a game of hide and seek. At first, due to the iTunes exclusive, when Newbury Comic customers come into our stores looking for the album, we won’t be able to sell it to them. Then, when we have it beginning on August 12, we won’t be able to sell them the deluxe version.”
Some independent retailers are refusing to sell the album after the windows period has expired and are vowing not to carry Jay-Z or Kanye Wests’ albums in the future. Could this decision be disastrous for the artists in the long run?
Trans World Vice President of music and new media, IshCuebas, believes so. “Look at what happened to the Beyonce album ’4,’ when Target got the exclusive version of the album,” he told Billboard. “After the first two weeks, sales collapsed because the rest of retail wouldn’t support the album.”
The winner of this battle will not be determined until the numbers are released on Nielsen Soundscan in two weeks.