Wal-Mart Rocks

by Talk Business & Politics ([email protected]) 116 views 

Wal-Mart Stores Inc. of Bentonville, the largest retailer in the world, is now trying to become the largest music retailer in the United States, according to an article in the July 10-24 issue of Rolling Stone magazine.

Wal-Mart has been a major retailer of country music for some time, but the company has been moving aggressively in recent years into the rock market, selling more than 1 million copies of Hootie and the Blowfish’s debut CD, “Cracked Rear View” in 1995.

The article quotes “industry sources” saying that the nation’s 2,300 Wal-Mart stores currently account for 8 to 10 percent of all the records sold in America. But the company’s goal is to sell 20 percent and surpass Musicland Stores Corp. as the country’s largest music retailer.

A major problem for rock bands, however, is Wal-Mart’s policy of selling only family-oriented goods, including records. That means company officials find many records to be offensive on the basis of lyrics or cover art.

Since record sales have increased at Wal-Mart, the company now has more power to make or break rock bands. So many bands are having to tone down their lyrics and cover art so their records can be sold in Wal-Mart stores.

Last year, Wal-Mart got into an argument with the Goo Goo Dolls because their album, “A Boy Named Goo,” pictured a young boy smeared with blackberries. Wal-Mart shoppers apparently complained, saying the boy could be perceived as a victim of child abuse. The band refused to revise the cover art, and Wal-Mart eventually agreed to sell the album as it is, according to the article.

White Zombie reluctantly agreed to airbrush a bikini onto the body of a naked woman pictured on the cover of their album “Supersexy Swingin’ Sounds” after realizing some fans in small towns might not be able to find the record anywhere except the local Wal-Mart.

Wal-Mart doesn’t comment about corporate strategy, so no information was available about the company’s alleged plans to take over the retail music world, says Daphne Davis, a spokeswoman for the Wal-Mart.

“Wal-Mart Stores Inc. does not alter CDs, albums or other forms of music that is offered in our stores,” read a statement on the matter from the company’s public relations office. “Wal-Mart, like most large retailers, does not accept any music that is affixed with the industry’s own standard ‘parental advisory’ label, which denotes explicit lyrics. Wal-Mart received more than 1,000 letters and phone calls in support of our position and less than 20 in opposition.”

Brant Skogrand, a spokesman for Musicland, says the company doesn’t comment about its competitors. Musicland has 1,392 stores nationwide and brought in $1.82 billion in sales (primarily from CDs).