Jay-Z and Kanye West's new album "Watch the Throne," one of the most anticipated releases this year, will first roll out on iTunes and in Best Buy stores, leaving other big box and independent stores alike out of the loop for the initial and most critical first two-weeks of sales.
Beginning today, iTunes, the largest music retailer in the U.S., will sell both the standard and deluxe version of the album exclusively. On August 12, Best Buy will have both the standard and deluxe versions of the album on CDs. Then finally on August 22 everyone else will have the standard version of the album.
Independent record store owners say this roll out will do great damage to over 1,700 of their stores, many of which are already struggling to stay open. Indy store owners who are part of Record Store Day sent an email addressed to Jay-Z and Kanye West calling the roll out a "short-sighted strategy". A snippet of their letter is below:
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.
Other major label executives are also questioning the decisions made by Roc-A-Fella records. "Why are they giving the deluxe exclusive window to Best Buy, who just made a clear statement that they are not so interested in the music category anymore when they chose Anderson to rack their stores?" a senior label executive who wished to remain anonymous told Billboard.com. "By ending their own involvement in purchasing music, they are saying they don't want to devote their own resources to music. So why would you give them an exclusive like that over the music specialty merchant that supports all your music, not just the superstar releases?"
Giant online retailers like Amazon.com are also upset. "We believe fans should have the option to buy the same music at their preferred retailer, on the same date, and unfortunately that is not always the case," Craig Pape, director of Amazon Music, said in a statement.
Currently "Watch the Throne" is priced and merchandised in Amazon's CD music store for pre-order, however there is no sign of the album in the Amazon MP3 store. This discrepancy is leading many to speculate that Amazon may use this as an opportunity to sell the album for 99 cents, like they did with Lady Gaga's last album. Industry insiders tell Billboard that Amazon is doing this "in an attempt to teach customers to think about waiting to see what Amazon will do before taking advantage of iTunes' exclusive selling windows."
Others believe this roll out was made to prevent leaks. This is the first rap release to not leak prematurely by either of the two artists, according to Vibe.