Don't be surprised if you can't find any music by the Rolling Stones in your local record store during the coming months: In late October, many retailers pulled the band's albums from their shelves after the Stones struck a deal to sell their four-disc Forty Flicks DVD set -- which includes concert footage and two Stones documentaries -- exclusively at Best Buy.
"This wasn't a decision we took lightly," says Fred Fox, executive vice president of merchandise and marketing for Trans World, which has stopped selling Rolling Stones albums at its 1,000 FYE stores. "This company has supported Stones titles that don't even earn their shelf space, and yet we're not given an opportunity to sell a hot item like this DVD box set during the busiest time of year."
In addition to Trans World, New England chain Newbury Comics and Canadian retail giant HMV have taken the Stones off their shelves. Those retailers complain that the band is both depriving fans of the chance to get Forty Flicks wherever they like and driving traffic to a store that doesn't even specialize in selling music.
"If an artist doesn't want to give us new product, then we won't carry any of their product," says Humphrey Kadaner, president of HMV North America. HMV has pulled all of the Stones CDs from its 100 Canadian stores and is considering a U.S. boycott, as well. "We stand to lose a million dollars worth of sales," Kadaner says. "But it's worth it, because what the Stones are doing is not in the best interest of the consumer."
"I feel bad for the stores that aren't going to have the product," says Mick Jagger, "but they have lots of other products, and music videos don't sell anything like movie DVDs."
Tower Records exec George Scarlett says that his company won't boycott the Stones, even though it objects to the Best Buy deal. "The fact that the Rolling Stones are going to bed with an electronics retailer shows how out of touch they are. Best Buy has done more than anyone to bring down the quality of music retail. But the band is a cornerstone of popular music. You can't just pull it off the shelves in a snit."