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Canadian retailers boycott Stones

'This just smacks of greed'

Mick Jagger of the Rolling Stones

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TORONTO, Ontario (Reuters) -- Canadians shopping for music this Christmas may have to cross the Rolling Stones off their wish list after retailers yanked their products in protest at an exclusive deal the band struck with a big competitor.

Major music chains vowed Wednesday to keep the band's music off their shelves indefinitely after the Stones made an exclusive deal with U.S. retailer Best Buy Co. Inc. to carry its new four-disc DVD, "Four Flicks," due next month.

The deal extends to Best Buy's Canadian outlets, shutting out other retailers.

"What have these guys become?" said Tim Baker, head buyer for the Sunrise Records chain. "We've been supporting the Rolling Stones for decades and loyalty is a two-way street. To do something like this just smacks of greed."

Stones promoter Michael Cohl said Best Buy agreed to sell the set for the lowest price in Canada, and that was the prime motivator for the deal.

But that failed to satisfy rival retailers who are alarmed by the precedent this might set at a time when their music sales are far from stellar.

HMV North America president Humphrey Kadaner said the only recourse retailers had was to show artists they could lose royalties if their records were not being sold.

"When artists and their management tell ... our customers that they're not good enough to have access to the new release product ... we have to send a message back that perhaps you're not worthy of having your product in our stores," he said.

The flap over the "Four Flicks" DVD may cast a pall over the British rockers' relationship with Canadian music fans, especially in Toronto where the band has a long history.

In July, the band rode to the city's emotional rescue and headlined a massive concert to help boost spirits and tourism after the SARS outbreak in Toronto.

Retailers said they will boycott the Stones indefinitely unless they are allowed to carry the new material.

"If we don't, we will be not just a SARS-free zone but a Rolling Stones-free zone," Sunrise Records' Baker said.

Copyright 2003 Reuters. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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