Indie Stores to Jay-Z and Kanye: What About us?
Independent music stores are getting behind the group responsible for Record Store Day by signing an open letter to Jay-Z and Kanye West that is being sent around today. The group intends to publish the letter in Billboard magazine, though it has already been made available online (via Pitchfork).
The letter addresses the fact that an upcoming collaborative release will give iTunes and Best Buy exclusive release rights and content for a period of time before it will be available to independent record stores.
"We believe this is a short-sighted strategy, and that your decisions will be doing great damage to over 1,700 independent record stores — stores that have supported you and your music for years."
This is not an unexpected situation as retailers big and small, digital and brick-and-mortar jostle for their piece of the very competitive music industry. At the same time we see artists trying to figure out how to maneuver within the music industry scrum in order to maximize their cut, whether it be through self release, deals with Live Nation or deals such as this with the major retailers.
What is especially interesting about the open letter, though, is how it steps on its own toes trying to make its point. The letter is striking out against the negative effect of exclusivity, but starts by detailing the benefits that the exclusivity of Record Store Day provided:
"We reached out to the artist community to see if they would join us, and the response was overwhelming with words of support coming in from Paul McCartney, Erykah Badu, Tom Waits, Chuck D, the Foo Fighters and countless others. Working with their label partners, many of these musicians created limited edition works of art, including vinyl and CDs made especially for music specialty retail."
I believe in the importance of independent record stores and I love Record Store Day, but this letter comes off as sort of whiny and desperate. Something, something, cake and eating it.