Friday, November 17, 2006

Gennaro Castaldo watch: Acts of war

On Monday, as you're doubtless aware, U2 and Oasis complete their respective record company contracts by releasing a bunch of old songs and pretending it's a new album. This, of course, has journalists dreaming of trying to bark up another Blur-Oasis type chart battle, despite the fact nobody much cares about this sort of thing when it's albums.

Still, the retailers are happy for any bone they're thrown these days, as Gennaro Castaldo explains his plans to the Guardian:

"We're going to have enormous images of U2 and Oasis on each side of the door when you walk into our shops," reveals Gennaro Castaldo, HMV's head of publicity. "It will look like a proper face-off."

Nothing says "enter my store" like having to make your way past an enormous Bono cut-out.

Where does all this money to spend on cardboard Gallaghers come from? In part, revealed the Sunday Times last weekend, by charging Irish customers up to 35% more than UK consumers for the same record. Castaldo came in to try and make the gouged Irish customers feel less like dupes who were being raped every time they buy an album from HMV. After all, there's bound to be a clear, understandable reason, eh, Gennaro?:

Gennaro Castaldo, HMV’s head of PR, said the new UK pricing structure may be extended to Irish stores some time next year. “It is contingent on having a dialogue with our suppliers because, ultimately, they have got to be able to give us different pricing so that we can pass that on to our customers.

“These things have to be done piecemeal because it’s quite an undertaking to do it everywhere at the same time, and there are different suppliers in Ireland.”

“I’m not saying it’s definitely happening,” added Castaldo, “but it is something we want to do. Our aim is to be as keenly priced in Ireland as can be.”

Ah... as you pay a quarter more for your copy of Amy Winehouse's album in Dublin than you would if you bought it in Belfast, you'll appreciate it's only contingent on dialoguing with suppliers.

We don't want to accuse Castaldo of spouting out his ass, but this is just flim-flam. If HMV told the distributors that they're going to order all their CDs for the British Isles in one go, then everyone could enjoy the slightly fairer prices. What, are HMV afraid that Universal will refuse to supply them at all? Castaldo does nothing to dispel the sense that HMV are doing rather nicely out of this segmentation of the market, and the "ooh, we really want to not rip off the Irish" hardly smacks of a company determined to sort things out.