It’s the tale of two retail giants and two highly anticipated albums. While Wal-Mart and their exclusive release, AC/DC’s Black Ice, continue to sell like hotcakes, Best Buy’s investment in Guns n’ Roses’ Chinese Democracy is an industry flop. So what’s to blame for the giant disparity? There’s Best Buy’s lack of promotion or Axl Rose’s reluctance to give interviews, but the Wall Street Journal also credits Wal-Mart for superior handling the promotion and execution of their exclusive product.
While Best Buy housed their Democracy in tiny cardboard kiosks, Wal-Mart essentially constructed AC/DC gift shops, selling band merchandise like T-shirts and the group’s Rock Band game, plus an AC/DC bus drove around select cities to build buzz. “Rock N’ Roll Train” debuted with fan interpretations, a music video, a Microsoft Excel video and a spot in the playlist at every sporting event, while “Chinese Democracy” simply hit radio and faded. AC/DC toured, Gn’R didn’t. Angus Young did interviews, Gn’R didn’t. More former members of Guns were willing to talk about Democracy than the band’s current members — even Dr Pepper promoted Chinese Democracy more than Axl Rose did.
Still, Universal Records won’t feel the punch of underselling “the most anticipated album in rock history”: As part of the Best Buy deal, the electronics giant agreed to purchase 1.3 million Chinese Democracy copies upfront with a pledge not to return the excess to the label. There is a silver lining, however, as Rose’s epic can expect a huge bump in strip club spins after two Chinese Democracy songs were sent on a music sampler sent to over 2,500 exotic dancing spots.
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