Pearl Jam fans who figured that a recent Best Buy promotional giveaway was too good to be true were right. The national electronics chain advertised that the first 50,000 customers to purchase the band’s $14.99 home video, Single Video Theory (a behind-the-scenes look at the making of the band’s latest album, Yield), would get a free seventeen-song live Pearl Jam CD.
But on August 3rd, the day before Best Buy was set to launch the exclusive offer, the company was threatened with an injunction filed by Sony Music, the owner of Pearl Jam’s label, Epic Records. Label brass insisted that the company was never told about the promotion and that neither the band nor its management nor Epic had given its OK for the CD, which was recorded live in Australia by Triple J Radio last March. “The shit hit the fan,” says one Sony sales staffer.
Best Buy, which had purchased ads trumpeting the deal in more than fifty major Sunday newspapers, was forced to retrieve all 50,000 CDs, dubbed Give Way. (The entire fiasco cost the chain at least $500,000, one retail source estimates.) Disappointed Pearl Jam fans who flocked to Best Buy to buy Single Video Theory were allowed to select any other $14.99 CD for free.
“Best Buy had some unforeseen copyright issues which we’re trying to resolve,” says company spokeswoman Laurie Bauer. But according to Sony, Pearl Jam fans won’t get a hold of the release any time soon. Once Sony receives all the Give Way copies from Best Buy, it plans to destroy the outlaw discs.
As for how Best Buy got the concert recording in the first place, Bauer isn’t saying. But Robert Scott, assistant program director at Triple J Radio, says the station would have to approve release of the concert’s broadcast, and “we certainly haven’t authorized anyone to use it.”
This story is from the September 17th, 1998 issue of Rolling Stone.