The big rock bands today are more often than not bands that made it big yesterday. By yesterday I mean in the 70’s, 80’s and 90’s. Think of the biggest bands that appear on Billboard’s Soundscan: the Eagles, ABBA, Journey, Metallica. How do these bands stay relevant? How are they able to top the charts with music that is not entirely new but instead carries selling points such as “digitally remasterd” or “featuring 2 all new tracks”? The answer: EXCLUSIVITY.
The days of the neighborhood record shop are long gone. If you are still buying cd’s you are buying them at the huge box-retailers like Target, Wal-Mart and Best-Buy. On-line music is no longer the future, its the present. The result is a dizzying number of potential outlets to purchase mp3’s or download music for free. Great for the public and some websites, not great for record labels and big named bands or musicians.
Creative stores and music execs have learned from other industries which have had to combat diluted sales streams. The “YOU CAN ONLY GET IT HERE” strategy has worked for retailers of all types of goods. So why wouldn’t it work for music?
A band with a previously established reputation as a big seller (10’s of millions of records sold) will enter into an agreement with a huge store and agree to only release its music through that store. Enter the exclusive sales agreement. The Eagles and Journey, both represented by Front Line Management, rather than a record label, have etched deals with Wal-Mart that provided that their new releases (Eagles “Long Road Out of Eden” or Journey’s greatest hits compilation “Revelation”) would only be available for purchase at Wal-Mart. Similarly, Christina Aguilera’s “Greatest” (I did not give it that adjective) Hits is only available at Target.
You may ask why any band would ever want to be exclusive with a monster chain like Wal-Mart or Best-Buy. Think of the marketing reach that these mega stores have. With newspaper, radio, television, internet and direct mail marketing materials from these stores consistently entering our homes the advertising and marketing reach is enormous. Even in the record labels’ hey-day they were never able to match the marketing reach of today’s mega stores. The proof is in the sales numbers, not the pudding. The Eagles physical cd sales hit 711,000 in the first week with all sales going through the registers at Wal-Mart.
This weekend will see the release of the first Guns N Roses release in 14 years. This highly anticipated release, just in time for the holiday shopping season, will only be available at Best Buy. Best Buy has paid an “undisclosed” amount for the exclusive right to sell Chinese Democracy. Best Buy’s upper management is banking on the millions of anxious GNR fans, the holiday season (albeit during a recession) and the collateral sales (customers buying a cd and an ipod or tv) it will make by bringing the fans into the store. Will the deal make money for Best Buy? Only the Best Buy brass will know, but chances are Chinese Democracy will have a long life on top of the charts.
What about the thousands of bands who do not have the clout of Guns N Roses or the Eagles? Well up and coming buzz bands or even bands who have hit the 100,000 sales mark will not be able to grab a deal with Target any time soon, but options are out their for creative bands and management. Write an exclusive song for a new music project like Green Label Sound or a website like Imeem. The cross promotion will have the same, obviously on a smaller level, as the big guy’s exclusive deal. Partner with an innovative company. Rapper Xzibit is rumored to have reached a deal with Dodge to include his last release in new Dodge cars. His sales numbers were automatically increased based on the number of cars produced. Think outside the box and you will see increased sales and new opportunities.
SHAMELESS SELF PROMOTION OF THE WEEK
DJ WHITESHADOW is on the road again. For those of you who don’t know check him out when he roles into your town. For those of you who do know the whiteshadow, you already know his skill(z). Download his music and check out his new projects: DJWHITESHADOW.COM.