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Some U.S. retailers join Stones boycott

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Keith Richards, left, arrives with his wife Patti Hansen at a recent launch party for "Four Flicks" in New York.

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NEW YORK (Billboard) -- The backlash against the Rolling Stones at Canadian retail regarding the band's exclusive deal with Best Buy for its upcoming "Four Flicks" DVD has spilled over the border into the United States.

Some U.S. retailers are protesting the move, saying they feel left out of the loop.

For example, 24-unit Newbury Comics in Brighton, Massachusetts, is pulling the Stones' deep catalog -- about 32 titles -- from its stores.

"Obviously, retail isn't important to them," CEO Mike Dreese wrote in an e-mail to employees. "So much for good will in deep-stocking an artist just because you thought their stuff was important to someone."

Newbury Comics is keeping about 10 of its best-selling Stones titles in stores but is raising their prices to $18.99 from $15.99.

In Albany, New York, Trans World Entertainment executive VP Fred Fox says his chain will pull Stones catalog from its 940 units, trimming the 72 titles that Trans World stocks to about five albums and returning the product.

"If the Rolling Stones elect to market their new product exclusively with someone because they are more important to them," Fox says, "I would have to step back and question why I would offer the slower-turning, older catalog pieces when I am not afforded the opportunity to sell the newer pieces, which are in higher demand."

And Circuit City, Best Buy's main competitor, is pulling a Rolling Stones catalog promotion it had planned to run in November and December.

"We are disappointed with the Rolling Stones' exclusive arrangement with a single retailer," Circuit City spokesman Jim Babb says. "We feel the arrangement not only damages other retailers who have supported the band for years, but it also damages the band because this product will be available to the public in far fewer outlets."

Mixed reaction

The veteran rock band's four-disc DVD set "Four Flicks," due November 11 from TGA Entertainment, a company operated by Stones tour promoter Michael Cohl, will be available exclusively through Best Buy for four months.

Meanwhile, members of the Coalition of Independent Music Stores are displaying mixed reactions, president Don VanCleave says.

"Some are pulling Rolling Stones inventory, and some are yawning," he says. "Some say, 'Who cares? Those are old bags of skin and bones,' and others say, 'I am a major Stone store, and this will really hurt."'

But the practice of giving select retailers exclusives is just plain short-sighted, VanCleave says.

Best Buy is also carrying a Paul Westerberg DVD and a John Mellencamp DVD from Redline as exclusives.

And there are more such deals in the works, says Gary Arnold, senior VP of entertainment at Best Buy. "There is more to come, but I can't tell you about it yet," he says.

Meanwhile, Canadian retailers Pindoff Record Sales, Sunrise Records and HMV Canada pulled all Rolling Stones product -- including CDs, DVDs, videotapes and accessories -- from their stores indefinitely, beginning October 28.

HMV Canada operates 100 stores. Pindoff Record Sales operates the 92-store Music World chain, and Sunrise has 32 stores in Ontario.

"Four Flicks" will be available in Canada only through Minneapolis-based Best Buy's 14 Canadian stores and the 105 outlets of its Future Shop subsidiary.

Executives at the camps that distribute the band's records, ABKCO and Virgin, indicate that they did not have any involvement in the deal. In Canada, ABKCO distributor Universal Music Canada declined to comment on the boycott, and EMI Music Canada did not return calls.

In a statement, Cohl commented: "The Rolling Stones and TGA Entertainment wanted to offer a fantastic product at an amazing price for the holidays for their fans. Best Buy made this possible with a four-DVD set for $29.99 in the U.S. and $39.99 in Canada.

"The other offers we received from alternative distributors would have had the product being sold for at least $20-$30 higher to the consumer, something which was unacceptable to the Stones and TGA," the statement continued.

Feeling shut out

HMV Canada president Humphrey Kadaner says HMV will now be scrutinizing Mellencamp's catalog because of Best Buy's similar deal for the DVD "Trouble No More: The Making of a John Mellencamp Album."

The DVD, which had been set for an October 28 release on the retailer's Redline Entertainment label, has since been delayed.

"It is management that is primarily signing these deals," Kadaner says. "This is the only way to get across the message to artists that this is not fair to our consumers."

Pindoff Record Sales GM/VP Terry Stevens says, "I'm pissed at a very disturbing trend from major artists giving exclusives to retailers.

"They are cutting the traditional retailer out of the loop. We have played a role in these guys having long and profitable careers. As a traditional retailer, I'm in the fight of my life to stay alive, and for management to bypass the supply chain is just too much," Stevens adds.

One Canadian chain that is not going along with the Stones boycott is A&B Sound, which has 22 stores in Western Canada.

The chain's VP of purchasing Lane Orr says, "In good times I could see yanking all of the Rolling Stones product off the shelf; in tough times, why bother?"



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

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