Published Oct 22, 2008It seems no matter where you turn these days another band are signing another retail exclusive. AC/DC recently inked one with Wal-Mart, who now have the exclusive rights to sell the bands new Black Ice. Guns N Roses Chinese Democracy has a similar deal with Best Buy. And Bryan Adamss latest album, 11, can only be found on the shelves of Wal-Mart and Sam's Club.
However, this only applies to the U.S. Here in Canada all the above albums can be bought at any record store that chooses to stock them, with artists rarely signing exclusive deals with Canadian retailers, making deals most often exclusive to the United States.
Because of this, HMV Canada has recently bought a full-page ad in Billboard that sends out a thank you letter to artists that "have recently said no to retail exclusives in Canada." On the list, you find such names as Bryan Adams, Christina Aguilera, Genesis, John Mellencamp, the Police and Anne Murray. On there as well are Guns N' Roses and AC/DC, both of whose albums will be readily available at any record store throughout Canada, HMV Canada president Humphrey Kadaner said Tuesday (October 21) in an interview with Canadian Press.
"Five years ago, the first major exclusive was announced by the Rolling Stones [for the Four Flicks DVD] and since then we've been working hard to educate artists and record companies that Canada's [marketplace is] different and Canadian consumers don't really like these exclusives," Kadaner told CP.
"Now there are two major releases coming out that were announced as exclusives in the U.S. and not in Canada. And we thought it's about time we ought to let more artists and managers know we appreciate all the efforts."
Kadaner insisted to CP that the new HMV ad is meant to be a public thank you, nothing more, nothing less. However, some members of the Canadian music industry expressed skepticism about HMVs motives and questioned whether the ad was in fact, an indirect threat.
Industry insider Larry Leblanc said the advertisement might be a pre-emptive strike against labels thinking about doing exclusives in Canada. "I think [retail exclusives] are going to come back, quite frankly," Leblanc told CP. "In this day and age they're looking for money under rocks essentially, anywhere there's revenue to be found."
The head buyer for retailer Sunrise Records, Tim Baker, shed a bit more light on why these bands and their labels are doing retail exclusives, even if for now they are primarily in the U.S.
"The majority of these bands who are doing this, how do I put this, are past their sell-by date for the most part," Baker said, although he added AC/DC isnt one of them. "You'll see it again with more aging acts. I think you'll probably find it's [done by] some bands that still think that they're somewhat relevant, like the Rolling Stones, when in actual fact they're probably not."
Like the others interviewed in the CP piece, Baker was a little uncertain about what HMV was really trying to do with its new ad. "I'm not disagreeing with [the message], but I'm a little bit confused as to what the motivation is here," he said. "Their motivation could very well be fairly magnanimous... I'm not going to say that I think there's an ulterior motive here. I just don't know."