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US indie stores protest Jay-Z and Kanye exclusives

By | Published on Monday 1 August 2011

Record Store Day

Numerous independent record store owners in the US have put their names to a letter protesting exclusive deals (in America) with iTunes and Best Buy for Jay-Z and Kanye West’s ‘Watch The Throne’ album.

Written by the organisers of Record Store Day, the letter explains that the decision to release the album to iTunes four days before the physical release, and then give Best Buy exclusive rights to sell a deluxe version of the CD for the first ten days “will be doing great damage to over 1700 independent record stores”.

The album is due for release in America on 12 Aug (8 Aug on iTunes), and the letter was being circulated around indie store owners to gather signatures ready for publication in US trade mag Billboard. But along the way, someone passed it on to Pitchfork, which published it early, possibly as some kind of post-modern example of how the impact of something can be reduced when it’s leaked early. Or maybe Pitchfork saw it as reclaiming the letter for independent companies from the big, bad Billboard. Whatever, it’s out now, so let’s see what it says.

Noting that the exclusivity deals on ‘Watch The Throne’ will hurt “stores that have supported you and your music for years” the letter concludes: “We know that you are busy, and that you put most of your energies into creating great music, but we are writing to you in the hope that you will hear us and take the time to rectify this matter. As representatives of the independent record store music community, we are asking you to allow record stores and music fans equal access to your new album”.

Exclusivity deals with retails on album releases have always been a bit controversial, though less so in recent years as they have become more and more common. So it’s interesting to see the indie store community take a stand now. You can read the letter in full here.