Tuesday, March 6, 2007

USA Today, Exclusives aim to pull music fans into stores

Back on January 21st I posted a blog entry, "It's Not Cheap to be a Fan", that discussed the many exclusives versions of new albums being released these days. Recently USA Today posted a story on this topic, "Exclusives aim to pull music fans into stores".

The world of music distribution faces turbulent times. Tower Records is gone. Hard-copy music sales continue to drop year to year, and double-digit hikes in digital sales haven't offset the losses. Meanwhile, brick-and-mortar retailers search for new ways to lure music-buying customers, particularly adults, who still buy CDs but no longer have the time or the inclination to go to music stores — assuming they can find one.

As national music chains dwindle, big-box retailers such as Target and Wal-Mart are taking cues from Starbucks and iTunes by adding more exclusive music to their shelves. Target's new Spotlight Music Series offers 15 discs, including new adult-contemporary music, genre compilations and mixes handpicked by Avril Lavigne, Jason Mraz, Dave Matthews and others.

"We know our guests don't have a lot of time to browse for their favorite music," says Target's Paula Thornton-Greear. "So the Spotlight Music Series makes it easy to discover, or rediscover, their favorite music."

"People are buying music differently, especially adults," says Jim Brandmeier of 180 Music, which developed the series with Target. "They're likely to buy music while looking for something else."

Retailers typically take a couple of approaches for exclusives. First, they work with labels or individual artists to create special packages. That could be as simple as Josh Groban's Valentine's Day compilation, With You, for Hallmark, which included two new songs. Or it could be as massive as Wal-Mart's exclusive deals with Garth Brooks (a multiyear pact) and The Eagles: The group's upcoming Long Road Out of Eden album will be available only at the chain for the first year.

Second, retailers extract exclusive content from labels. Buyers of John Mellencamp's Freedom's Road, for instance, had several bonus options, including a four-song CD at Best Buy, a DVD at Wal-Mart, downloads at Walmart.com and Circuit City, and a video and two rough mixes at iTunes. The permutations amounted to eight tracks and five videos. Jerry Lee Lewis' Last Man Standing album gave digital exclusives to Wal-Mart, Best Buy, Target, CMT.com, iTunes, Rhapsody, Urge and Napster.


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