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The latest speculation has next year’s U2 album, slated for Q1 ’09, possibly taking that route, and what if fellow superstars like Eminem or even Dr. Dre, whose Detox album has been almost as long-awaited as Chinese Democracy, follow suit?
BIG-BOX RETAIL WAGS THE DOG: EXPECT MORE TO COME
AC/DC, Eagles, Journey and Christina Aguilera Lead the Way With Successful Releases at Wal-Mart and Target
Big-box retail exclusives have been around since Wal-Mart first made a deal with Garth Brooks back in 2005, and the recent results from releases by AC/DC, the Eagles and Journey (Wal-Mart), Guns N’ Roses (Best Buy) and Christina Aguilera (Target) have shed a light on the advantages and disadvantages of these arrangements. Will there be more to come? As long as the retailers are dangling the carrot of buying albums with money up front, no returns, you damn well better believe it.

The latest speculation has next year’s U2 album, slated for Q1 ’09, possibly taking that route, and what if fellow superstars like Eminem or even Dr. Dre, whose Detox album has been almost as long-awaited as Chinese Democracy, follow suit?

The most recent big box exclusive, Chinese Democracy, sold only 255k in its first week at Best Buy and a deleterious drop off to around 56k in its second, a disappointing total blamed equally on Axl Rose’s lack of promotion and limited cooperation from Interscope Geffen A&M, which lacked the incentive to do much, having pocketed the initial check for $14m, the revenue from the approximately 1.6 million sold one-way at $8.75 a pop. On the other hand, the label’s been complaining about the lack of visible marketing support from the retailer, so let the finger pointing begin. Despite the glitches, most believe Chinese Democracy did better than it would have with a normal release.

On the other hand, Wal-Mart’s releases of the Eagles’ Long Road Out of Eden (711k first week) and AC/DC’s Black Ice (802k) are considered the benchmarks for retail exclusive success, while Journey, which was done directly through management with no major label attached, did 105k

The Eagles have sold 3.1 million to date, AC/DC 1.5 million and Journey 538k.

Columbia’s setup for AC/DC’s Black Ice was overseen by the band’s onetime manager (and label head) Steve Barnett, who helped coordinate a fully integrated rollout that included TV, radio, the Internet and a tour that kicked off just days after the album hit shelves.

Wal-Mart’s Eagles promotion was both well planned and executed, with the album released on the band’s own imprint, while Irving Azoff’s Front Line took over much of the publicity, video and radio promotion that Columbia executed on behalf of AC/DC.

Most managers are very happy with the Target artist exclusive because of the chain’s extensive marketing support. Even though another Azoff client, Christina Aguilera, sold just 73k in the first week for her greatest hits album, Keeps Gettin’ Better, the retailer’s high visibility, million-dollar TV ad campaigns remain a real incentive.

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