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AC/DC outsold GNR by nearly 500k as a result of the amount of exposure AC/DC had leading up to release relative to Guns—and most of the blame rests at the feet of Axl Rose.
APPETITE FOR SELF-DESTRUCTION: I.B. BAD ON CHINESE DEMOCRACY
IGA and Best Buy Faced an Uphill Fight in Their Efforts to Market GNR’s Album
Many are expressing surprise that Guns N’ RosesChinese Democracy sold only 255k in its first week as a Best Buy exclusive. But those who have closely analyzed the situation say that comparing GNR’s total with the 802k tallied by AC/DC in its Wal-Mart exclusive is like comparing apples and oranges, in that radically different circumstances surrounded the two projects.

AC/DC outsold GNR by nearly 500k not because of any particular difference between the two retailers, but as a result of the amount of exposure AC/DC had leading up to release relative to Guns—and most of the blame for that rests at the feet of Axl Rose. IGA and Best Buy were handicapped on a number of levels, due in large part to Rose’s refusal to participate in the setup—dramatically reducing the ability of the label and Best Buy to market the release.

Contrast this situation to Columbia’s superbly orchestrated campaign for AC/DC’s Black Ice, overseen by a highly motivated Steve Barnett, who has a long, close history with the band. AC/DC seemed to be everywhere on TV, radio and the Internet in the weeks leading up to release, spiking the perfectly calibrated campaign by announcing its tour in the midst of the ramp-up and kicking it off just days after Black Ice went to market.

By contrast, Rose submitted to no TV or press interviews, nor did he choose take his band on the road behind the release, while no official video has yet surfaced. AC/DC has also had a far greater radio presence, leading some to wonder why IGA would be motivated to pour additional marketing and promotion dollars into the record after pocketing $14m in the one-way sale of 1.6m units.

Factor in that this was Best Buy’s first exclusive with a major release from a high-profile act, while Wal-Mart pioneered the arrangement back in 2005 with Garth Brooks. And some are asking whether Best Buy had sufficient time to do its own setup, given the fact that Rose didn’t approve the final artwork until a few weeks prior to the release date.

On the other hand, even in these less-than-ideal circumstances, most believe that Chinese Democracy fared better with Best Buy than it would have in general release, due to a concentrated effort on the part of the chain.

The Best Buy/GNR situation is unlikely to slow the trend considering its obvious benefits—notably including guaranteed big money and the elimination of returns—and speculators are speculating that the next big act to ride the wave could be U2, whose next album will be an important part of IGA’s hoped-for recovery from a rare down year.

Some assert that the GNR situation exemplifies the risk/reward trade-off so prevalent in recent Q4s, as the majors rush out superstar albums without proper setups in order to make their numbers for the year, thereby sacrificing potential long-term results for a short-term gain in the crucial fourth quarter.

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