While flipping through the Best Buy circular that came with this weekend’s New York Times, I noticed something kind of odd: There wasn’t one mention of Guns N’ Roses’ Chinese Democracy anywhere within, despite the album still being exclusively available at the big blue retailer. All the premium music-selling real estate—the album-cover shots in proffered iPods, etc.—was instead given over mostly to Britney Spears’ Circus, which I can understand on one level (a pretty girl being like a melody and all), but which doesn’t make sense given that the Guns deal was supposedly a big-money transaction for Best Buy, and that the endlessly speculated-about album reportedly didn’t break the half-million mark as far as its first-week sales went.
A visit to a Best Buy (store No. 467 in Levittown, N.Y.) made me even more curious. Copies of Chinese Democracy were plentiful (and the vinyl was $19.99?!), but there were no displays trumpeting the album’s Best Buy exclusivity, just some endcap placement on a “best-selling albums” display where it shared space with this week’s probable No. 1, 808s And Heartbreak. (The music section at this store was pretty sad overall; it was shoved in a corner of the front section behind the bigger-ticket items like cameras, and there were printouts taped to each endcap noting which letters were in which rows. I suspect that when satellite radio finally tanks, it’ll be further relegated to the space right near the restrooms. Hey, maybe by then, music floor space will only be the size of one stall!)
So what’s the deal? Did Best Buy overshoot? Were the suits thinking that the chain would quickly sell out of the inventory it had during the holiday shopping week, and that the free publicity engendered by the album—despite Axl Rose doing pretty much no press for it—would supersede any boost from a newspaper insert or in-store display? Or does everyone want to just wash their hands of this thing and move on to the big-ticket prize—the reunion of the “Axl’s arm tattoo” lineup? And when will the vinyl be marked down to a price where it’s actually worth buying. So many questions.