Here's a nice overview of a few recent account-exclusive CD releases at Wal-Mart, Target, and Best Buy from HITS magazine.
Here's the one passage of the HITS piece which disturbs me (italics mine):
The most recent big box exclusive, Chinese Democracy, sold only 255k in its first week at Best Buy and a deleterious drop off to around 56k in its second, a disappointing total blamed equally on Axl Rose’s lack of promotion and limited cooperation from Interscope Geffen A&M, which lacked the incentive to do much, having pocketed the initial check for $14m, the revenue from the approximately 1.6 million sold one-way at $8.75 a pop. On the other hand, the label’s been complaining about the lack of visible marketing support from the retailer, so let the finger pointing begin. Despite the glitches, most believe Chinese Democracy did better than it would have with a normal release.
Lacked the incentive to do much? How about the incentive to maximize revenues and profits? How about seeking to create a bright spot in an otherwise dismal retail landscape? How about driving catalog sales on GNR and other UMG current and catalog acts at Best Buy with the GNR fan base coming in to buy this record?
If it's all about the paycheck, then why the hell did Axl do this deal? why did he hold onto this record for so long? Why try and claim any artistic high ground as he recorded and re-recorded and mixed and re-mixed this album with various casts of characters in the decade+ he has been working on this album for?
If it's all about the paycheck for the record label, then labels can't expect retail to want to do these exclusives and be enthusiastic about them. Why? Because they are pulling the weight with no label support. The AC/DC example is the complete opposite of the GNR situation, as they were an integral part of the marketing, PR, and radio promotion effort to drive the sales on Black Ice, and continue to do so.
Partnerships don't have to be equal per se, but they ought to be equitable.