AC/DC’s first album of new material in eight years, Black Ice, comes out Oct. 20, but if you don’t live near a Wal-Mart or Sam’s Club, forget about leaving your house in search of a copy. The CD will only be available at outlets of the Arkansas-based chain of megacheapness, although those of you who don’t live near a Wal-Mart (or just don’t feel like standing under the store’s super-unflattering fluorescents) can also purchase the album via the band’s official site. Wal-Mart’s most recent exclusive music deal comes at an interesting time for the store, which is the No. 1 music retailer in the country, as it’s planning on going ahead with a long-planned revamp of its music section in the near future. From the Wall Street Journal:
But even as it strikes novel deals with a handful of artists and labels, Wal-Mart is preparing changes in its approach to selling the vast majority of music. It is unclear what the upshot of those changes will be, but one likely scenario involves cuts in the number of music titles the chain carries.
The announcement also comes several days after Wal-Mart bucked industry trends with reporting a 17% rise in fiscal second-quarter net income, though the world’s largest retailer also warned sales gains ahead will be muted by the slow economy, soaring inflation and the end of U.S. tax-rebate checks.
Even so, Wal-Mart said it expects to fare better than other retailers this year. “While inflation and higher fuel costs are pressuring suppliers, retailers and customers world-wide, we’re confident that Wal-Mart is well positioned,” Chief Executive H. Lee Scott Jr. said in a statement.
Wal-Mart executives, frustrated by perennially declining CD sales, have been quietly exploring changes in their approach to selling music. The company has described different versions of its potential new strategy to different players in the music industry.
As previously outlined, those strategies have included cutting shelf space, reducing prices to levels that may make even the most ardent filesharer take a look, and–oh yeah–cutting shelf space for albums that it doesn’t have “exclusive” deals with. Whether or not the majors will actually go along with these plans is still up for debate–the WSJ reported a couple of months ago that the labels didn’t like the idea of devaluing their product even more than it already has been–although the situation would seem to be dictated by Wal-Mart, what with their history of gripping suppliers’ balls in their vise of being the only game in town.