Upset About Beyonce Going Digital, Target Refuses To Stock New Album

from the stupidity-in-action dept

As you may have heard, Beyonce took much of the music world by surprise by launching her new album on iTunes only with no buildup. It was an incredibly successful promotion, garnering a ton of sales, and showing that she recognizes that digital is where the music world is these days. However, in a show of pure spite and jealousy, retailer Target responded by saying that it won’t sell her physical CD once it comes out, because they don’t want to encourage this sort of “going digital” behavior:

“At Target we focus on offering our guests a wide assortment of physical CDs, and when a new album is available digitally before it is available physically, it impacts demand and sales projections,” Target spokesperson Erica Julkowski tells Billboard.

She continues, “While there are many aspects that contribute to our approach and we have appreciated partnering with Beyonce in the past, we are primarily focused on offering CDs that will be available in a physical format at the same time as all other formats. At this time, Target will not be carrying Beyonce’s new self-titled album ‘Beyonce.'”

This reminds me of the petulant and childish response of movie theaters when filmmakers started trying to release films online at the same time they were in the theaters. Like in that situation, these “brick and mortar” guys are fighting back against the tide, looking out of touch and childish at the same time. I would imagine that the basic reaction to Target’s decision is to shrug. It’s likely that people care a lot more about Beyonce than they do about Target, and if Target wants to send them elsewhere to get the music they want, those people just won’t shop at Target. I’m not sure how Target wins in that situation.

Where this gets even more bizarre is that, generally speaking, CDs and such are low margin, or even loss leaders, for retailers like Target. They don’t make their profit there, but rather use the CDs to bring people in to sell them much higher margin goods. Yet, in this case, they won’t even get that benefit, all because they think they can prevent the natural tide of the move to digital? Oh, and looking childish and petty in the process. Who at Target thought that was a good idea?

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Comments on “Upset About Beyonce Going Digital, Target Refuses To Stock New Album”

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71 Comments
Ninja (profile) says:

At Target we focus on offering our guests a wide assortment of physical CDs

Translation: we haven’t stepped into the new millennium yet.

and when a new album is available digitally before it is available physically, it impacts demand and sales projections

Translation: we think we can control what people want

At this time, Target will not be carrying Beyonce’s new self-titled album ‘Beyonce.’

Translation: we are throwing a tantrum because the last part is unfeasible and thus we’ll leave money on the table so the people wiser than us can take it. Like Beyonce?

Where this gets even more bizarre is that, generally speaking, CDs and such are low margin, or even loss leaders, for retailers like Target.

Derp.

Who at Target thought that was a good idea?

Probably someone the MAFIAA would hire.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:

I went to a DELL seminar awhile back and they described how their products are used to make predictions like this. Everyone who enters the store is cataloged via facial recognition software that monitors their every movement in the store and also monitors their eye movement and how long their eyes pause on each product they look at. The next time they are in the store, the same facial recognition software looks up their previous visits and logs the new visit. It’s very interesting stuff but also very creepy.

Ninja (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:

I saw that one. And this sort of behavior is creeping people the heck out. I’ve heard stories of people that stopped using the sites or paying with credit card because of such thing.

These days some creep called me from some lame College asking me if I was interested in attending any course. I recently paid to take the test of an University so my guess is that somewhere at some point my data was sold out. I went ballistic with the telemarketing dude and now I’m not gonna attend that College ever even if it’s good because of this invasion.

Christopher Best (profile) says:

So... Windowing is bad?

So Target is saying windowing is bad and anti-consumer? Heck, I agree with them. I think Beyonce should have offered a physical CD at the same time she released online. I also think her album shouldn’t have been an iTunes exclusive, but should have been available via all online music services.

I hope Target will apply this newly enlightened view to the movie studios holding back DVD releases and in their new involvement in the Ultraviolet consortium.

McGreed (profile) says:

Re: So... Windowing is bad?

Yeah, it reminds me about the shop that wanted to stop people window shopping and then buy it online, and then started to demand entry fee for people to enter the shop, which they would get back if they bought something, but not if they didn’t.
Talking about shooting yourself in the foot. Instead of trying to get with the times, they try to force people to buy from them. Yeah, no thanks.

Anonymous Coward says:

If this cd is a loss leader to get people in the door, then it makes sense for them to not bother with it when it does come out. If the bulk of impulse shoppers have already purchased it online, what benefit would it be to target to sell it at a loss any longer? We all talk about how we “dont own anything” anymore. Yet we defend digital distribution that can be revoked at any time. Amazons 1984 or the more recent Disney release being 2 examples.

Having worked at target during the x-mas season unloading trucks, I am not a fan of theirs, but at some point I am sure it gets irritating to those who provide jobs, and property taxes to a community to see their market removed from them without notice or at least the opportunity to compete for customers at the same time.

ltlw0lf (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:

iTunes songs are DRM-free, you DL them and they’re yours.

There was a long time in which they weren’t.

And iTunes videos are still DRM’d. I still haven’t been able to figure out how to play the Nerdist episodes I purchased on iTunes on a Linux box, but then again I haven’t been trying recently. I was able to watch them on a Windoze virtual machine once.

PaulT (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re: Re:

Two things come to mind here:

1. Are you sure it was DRM rather than the other machine simply having problems with the AAC format (i.e. did you try with something like VLC, which can play most things unless there’s DRM?)? Apple do still favour their own format, but it’s not actually DRM.

2. Were these fresh downloads or something from the stored library? I doubt they’d become DRM-free unless they’re re-downloaded after the requirement was lifted.

Either way, I’m pretty sure anything that’s been added to iTunes in the last few years is DRM-free.

out_of_the_blue says:

What? Is Beyonce SELLING music instead of T-shirts? HOW 20th century!

Meanwhile, Mike avoids noticing that his own notions about artists selling directly — actually giving away the music and selling “scarcity” was Mike’s notion. — but just selling directly, no middlemen at all, has definitely been proved complete hooey. In fact, only a new bunch of middlemen are rising to grift off artists, and rest of the music biz continues along the ancient lines of heavily promoting a few like Beyonce for the key target demographic.

So except for lack of records and now CDs, what’s new since teh internets? — That while playing music, YOU’RE SPIED ON!


Just because a lot of people have gotten a lot of easy money off teh internets doesn’t make it a plus overall: at the very least, the Internet enables spying on scale and in detail as never before.

05:28:25[g-785-7]

Jeff says:

Personally I was disappointed that the only place I could buy the new Beyonce album was on iTunes. I regularly shop around online for my digital music collection, and I usually end-up at Amazon Mp3 for their prices. Being forced to pay $15.99 for a music/video collection was not something I’d choose to do again. Good for Beyonce from a business perspective, but the whole thing seems pretty bad from a consumer perspective.

I don’t think Target is saying “STOP THE DIGITAL MUSIC SALES!” I think they’re just saying, give everyone an equal chance to sell your album on release-day at a price that retailers feel comfortable selling it (including online shops). But if only one company gets to sell it on release, then we get a $15.99 price tag (yes I know there’s “additional content” that I will personally never use and would have not preferred paying for). 1996 called and it wants its CD pricing back!

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re:

I don’t think Target is saying “STOP THE DIGITAL MUSIC SALES!” I think they’re just saying, give everyone an equal chance to sell your album on release-day at a price that retailers feel comfortable selling it (including online shops).

No, what Target is really saying is “You didn’t give US the exclusive, you b***h!”

John Fenderson (profile) says:

Re: Compact Discs

I still purchase CDs when I can get the music I want on them. They’re much better that digital files: I rip them, so I have them digitally, without any worries about DRM, I have a physical backup I can use in case of disaster, and I have a disc that I can play if I’m somewhere where playing a digital file is inconvenient.

ltlw0lf (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re: Re:

True, iTunes is quite simply awful. The Windows version, anyway.

The Mac version isn’t much better, and could be far worse once you realize that you just spent $1500 more on a machine that will be obsolete and no longer supported in 6 months.

Of course, that was before I realized that Debian/Mint runs awesome on a 6 year old MacBook Pro. Faster than MacOS X (that isn’t able to run the latest MacOS X software.)

Jeff says:

Re: Re: Re:

Well its not Apple’s fault you didn’t back up your music collection. I lost my library once as well and it took 5 months to re-import it. I have no problem with iTunes and I use it on my Win7 machine. My library now sits at 31,000+ tracks which totals at 260gb+. iTunes doesn’t seem to have a problem with my library. Needless to say I have around 4 backup copies of my entire library so I don’t lose it again.

saulgoode (profile) says:

Reminiscing

This reminds me of the petulant and childish response of movie theaters when filmmakers started trying to release films online at the same time they were in the theaters. Like in that situation, …

It might be “like in that situation” were Target seeking to have their physical copies released in advance of the Itunes release, but the fact they are objecting to not receiving equal treatment suggests it’s a rather different situation and hardly deserving of being called petulant and childish.

John Fenderson (profile) says:

Re: Reminiscing

The thing is that this wasn’t a digital-only release. This was a case of an exclusive pre-release. The medium it was on is completely irrelevant to the business case.

Beyonce did an exclusive release through iTunes, that’s why Target was left out — it’s part of the “exclusive” bit. Target has been on the good end of the exclusive stick and didn’t have a problem with it when they were. Now, Target comes off as having a bad case of sour grapes. They wanted the exclusive deal and didn’t get it. I call that petulant.

On the other hand, is Target’s position that had Beyonce release a physical CD exclusively through Amazon first, Target would still carry the CD once the exclusive period ended? It sure sounds like it. In which case, Target is being crazy and petulant.

John Fenderson (profile) says:

Re: Re:

You should actually make some kind of reasoned argument here instead of just spouting off some kind of nonsequitor assertion. that way we can understand what you’re actually trying to say (assuming that you have a point beyond “TD sucks”.)

How does this release “blow all of Masnick’s silly theories out of the water”? Which silly theories are you talking about?

That One Guy (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re: Re:

Are we reading the same site here?

I’ve seen Mike and other TD writers claim that ‘middlemen’ that act as gatekeepers are no longer required, and in fact are something to be avoided, but not that middlemen entirely are bad. In fact there are several articles discussing the difference between the two(usually worded as ‘gatekeepers’ vs ‘enablers’), and talking about how middlemen do have their place, and can be helpful, but only when they are helping the creators, rather than controlling them.

http://www.techdirt.com/blog/?tag=middlemen

Fentex says:

Surely you mean Online, not Digital

Surely where ‘Digital’ was written in this story ‘Online’ was meant?

CD’s themselves being digital technology the word does not distinguish them from downloaded media also in a digital format.

Is this a thing generlally in the U.S? Confusing ‘digital’ with online (or streamed)?

TAKUMI says:

I think you might have misinterpreted what they were saying just a little.

i.e.: Target doesn’t think those particular physical CDs will sell as well with the online version out, so it doesn’t want to buy stock that will just sit around, because it doesn’t think that’s productive.

Now, it is still a little stupid since the CDs could have sold after all if they’d actually decided to carry them, but not the same kind of stupid.

PaulT (profile) says:

“”At Target we focus on offering our guests a wide assortment of physical CDs, and when a new album is available digitally before it is available physically, it impacts demand and sales projections”

I always laugh when things like this come out. Pure marketing bullshit speak.

To translate: they don’t give a crap about what their consumers actually want. They make projections about their ideal profit level, and if they think that’s not going to be reached they opt to offer nothing. As in they’re “offering (their) guests” what they want to give and the actual wishes of their “guests” be damned.

Their prerogative, of course, as long as they don’t then start bitching about piracy when their overall CD sales fall below expectations.

Votre (profile) says:

Has Techdirt’s brain gone out to lunch on this one?

Oh boy! Bad Target! Bad Bad Target!

Imagine…wanting to sell somebody music on hard media so anyone could play it anywhere, loan it to anybody, reencode it to play on any – and as many – devices as they like, and even sell it to somebody else. Much better to require them to buy an expensive appliance locked into a single company store if they want to hear a certain song.

Yeah, that really sucks. Target is acting like a child by not being willing to go along with Apple/RIAA’s new vision of reality (i.e. distribution monopoly) people like Beyonce have so obviously signed onto.

Yes indeed. It’s perfectly fair and grownup to say “my bat, my ball, my rules” if you’re Apple. But not if you’re a retailer who would rather not encourage or give silent unintended support to the practice of single sourcing music.

DRM-Digital is not the wave of the future. It’s a throwback to the days when records were only playable on specific record players – and each record player manufacturer was busy signing exclusive contracts with as many musicians as possible. Want Caruso? Buy Victorola. Want Jolson? Buy Westinghouse. Want to listen to everything? Plan on buying several players.

Sometimes the more things change, the sooner they go back to what they used to be.

PaulT (profile) says:

Re: Re:

“Imagine…wanting to sell somebody music on hard media so anyone could play it anywhere, loan it to anybody, reencode it to play on any – and as many – devices as they like, and even sell it to somebody else. “

Nobody is forcing them not to sell the CD. Nothing about the digital release prevents them from doing so, and other retailers are indeed selling the CD. Hell, even Amazon is selling the CD despite them apparently having been locked out of being able to sell the digital version. The only thing they were prevented from doing was selling a specific version at a specific time, and to that I say welcome to the world of licencing and marketing deals – which have been here for decades and I’ll bet that Target don’t whine when they’re the ones with an exclusive.

They’re only whining because people could buy the digital version first, so instead of adapting to that reality they’ve decided not to sell anything. Refusing to sell a product at all because a competitor managed to get a first bite of the cherry really isn’t good business, and definitely nothing to do with what you’re implying.

“DRM-Digital is not the wave of the future.”

I agree, which is why pretty much anyone here who’s not on the RIAA payroll has supported non-DRM media for years, and why it’s been removed from most, if not all, purchased music files. Which purchased music services still force DRM, and why do you think anyone here supports it?

Do you have a point, or did you just want to kick the crap out of a handy strawman?

That One Guy (profile) says:

Re: Re:

… the fact that despite the insane price you still bought it shows why they are willing to price that high. People pirating their crap isn’t going to ‘show them’, they just use that as an excuse to whine to their pet lawmakers about how they need more laws, and tougher enforcement of the laws to ‘protect’ them.

Want to get them to cut that crap out? Stop buying their insanely overpriced crap, and don’t pirate it either. Give your money and attention to other artists and services that offer reasonable prices and terms.

Peter (profile) says:

TARGETED

Seems you’ve been TARGETED – they fed you some Beyonc? – spin to bury the real story: “Dec. 19: 8:20 a.m. ET: Target released a statement this morning confirming a breach, saying that 40 million credit and debit card accounts may have been impacted between Nov. 27 and Dec. 15, 2013.”
http://krebsonsecurity.com/2013/12/sources-target-investigating-data-breach/

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