Saturday, January 31, 2009

Do you think, Bruce?

Bruce Springsteen has admitted that, on balance, he shouldn't have tied up with WalMart, telling the New York Times:

Mr. Springsteen said the decision was made too hastily. “We were in the middle of doing a lot of things, it kind of came down and, really, we didn’t vet it the way we usually do,” he said. “We just dropped the ball on it.” Instead of offering the exclusive collection to Wal-Mart, “given its labor history, it was something that if we’d thought about it a little longer, we’d have done something different.” He added, “It was a mistake. Our batting average is usually very good, but we missed that one. Fans will call you on that stuff, as it should be.”

Hmm. You could just about see that if there were dozens of deals, with numerous regional chains, that one or two dodgy arrangements might sneak through. But suddenly realising "oh, hang about, our album is only being sold through a chain which is known for locking staff in overnight, and is profoundly hostile to unionisation" is on a par with waking up the morning after and yelling "but who knew Dick Emery was actually a man?"

Still, at least Bruce is admitting the error. Earlier, as the Times notes, there was a pathetic attempt to try and pretend there was nothing to see here:
In an interview with Billboard, Mr. Springsteen’s manager, Jon Landau, defended the release, saying Mr. Springsteen’s albums were already in Wal-Mart, which accounts for 15 percent of his sales. He also said: “We’re not doing any advertising for Wal-Mart. We haven’t endorsed Wal-Mart or anybody else. We’re letting Sony do its job.”

Ah, yes. Granting exclusive access to your album doesn't mean anything. In much the same way that just because I call you up, you shouldn't think you've got it made.

Why does Landau think the stores cut these lucrative exclusive deals with acts if they don't think it's going to bring extra footfall into their stores and boost sales at the tills?

WalMart are now a bit testy, issuing a hurt statement:
"Millions of Springsteen fans have counted on Wal-Mart over the years to deliver his music into their lives, and we will continue to offer those fans this 'Greatest Hits' exclusive and his other popular albums at unbeatable prices," Wal-Mart said in a statement, adding: "We are proud of the good jobs, benefits and career opportunities we provide to more than 1.4 million U.S. associates who choose to work at Wal-Mart and serve our customers every day."

And, they somehow forgot to add, just before Christmas they settled simply loads of the outstanding 73 class-action lawsuits brought alleging violations of laws on working hours and overtime payments. And, hey, with 1.4 million workers, it's not surprising that a Minnesota judge would have found two million violations of law by forcing staff to work "off the clock" or without breaks. You know, that's less than two violations per head, if you average it out. No wonder WalMart are proud.