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Record Stores to Kanye West and Jay-Z: Ditch the Exclusivity with Best Buy, iTunes

Independent record stores, including Lou Russell of Lou's Records in Encinitas, weigh in

Album cover for Watch The Throne

Album cover for Watch The Throne

  • Album cover for Watch The Throne
  • Lou's Records - Encinitas, CA
  • Amoeba Records - Los Angeles, CA
  • Rasputin Music - Berkeley, CA
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In late 2010, platinum hip hop recording artists Jay-Z and Kanye West announced the formation of a ‘supergroup’ for the pair, aptly named The Throne. Since then, The Throne has released two singles, “HAM” and “Otis,” the latter of which is set to appear on their debut album collaboration, Watch The Throne. Originally intended to be a five-track EP, Watch The Throne will now be a full album with twelve tracks, and features guest vocals by artists including Frank Ocean and Beyonce, amidst tracks produced by a variety stars, including The Rza, Q-Tip and The Neptunes. As a prelude to the anticipated album release, The Throne has also forged up a (now somewhat-rescheduled) North American tour, with most of the major east and west coast cities a stopping point. Sadly, San Diego will be passed by – the closest show will be December 12 in Los Angeles at the Staples Center. Opening acts for the gigantic headliner duo, if any, are details that have yet to be publically announced.

But hold on there. The album, Watch The Throne, released by Roc-A-Fella / Roc Nation / Def Jam, has been dictated for digital release August 8 on iTunes, and will enjoy physical distribution exclusivity in all Best Buy stores from August 12-23. After this time period, the album will be available via other retailers. This has been a key sticking point to independent stores outside of the usual mega-chain release loop. As there are only about 2,000 retail record stores left in America, and given the premier focus on iTunes/Best Buy, the likelihood that excited fans will wait until after August 23 to purchase the album is very low. So low, that the community and owners behind independent record stores has put together a letter addressed to Jay-Z and Kanye West, in hopes that they will reconsider the exclusive distribution and not further damage the already-painful business of local community record stores. Likely, this is far too late, as they are sure to be contractually obligated to Apple and Best Buy; a change in their distribution of an album this anticipated is sure to bring on lawsuits. Still, perhaps this might shed some light on the fact that without independent record stores, many artists around today may not have made it. Here is their letter:

Dear Jay-Z and Kanye West, Independent record stores serve our communities. Our passion is music, and we convey this to the millions of customers who come to our stores. That's what we do. Four years ago independent music stores across the country banded together to create Record Store Day. Our goal was to counter the negative media coverage about the supposed demise of record stores brought on by the closing of the Tower stores and to respond to the music business practices that fans deemed to be manipulative and onerous. We reached out to the artist community to see if they would join us, and the response was overwhelming with words of support coming in from Paul McCartney, Erykah Badu, Tom Waits, Chuck D, the Foo Fighters and countless others. Working with their label partners, many of these musicians created limited edition works of art, including vinyl and CDs made especially for music specialty retail. Hundreds of these artists took the opportunity to perform, DJ, and interact with their fans in our record stores. Here in the US, Record Store Day lifted the entire music business by 8% and contributed to the growth in music sales. Record Store Day is now one of the biggest music events in history with millions of people participating worldwide. We also continue to work throughout the year with labels, artists and managers and run regular promotions via physical independent retail and recordstoreday.com. We are responding to the bad news that your new album will not be available to independent record stores until after iTunes gets a window of exclusivity. We also learned that the deluxe version (which is what the true music fans who shop our stores will want by an overwhelming majority) will only be available at Best Buy exclusively for a period of time. We believe this is a short-sighted strategy, and that your decisions will be doing great damage to over 1,700 independent record stores -- stores that have supported you and your music for years. We know that you are busy, and that you put most of your energies into creating great music, but we are writing to you in the hope that you will hear us and take the time to rectify this matter. As representatives of the independent record store music community, we are asking you to allow record stores and music fans equal access to your new album. With the utmost respect, Dedry Jones, The Music ExperienceMike Dreese, Newbury ComicsJudy Negley, Independent RecordsMike Batt, Silver PlattersTobago Benito, DBS SoundsBrian Faber, Zia RecordsKaren Pearson, Amoeba MusicBryan Burkert, The Sound GardenMike Wise, MonsterRob Roth, Vintage VinylJoe Nardone, Jr., Gallery of SoundJonathan Fernandez, Rasputin MusicDilyn Radakovitz, Dimple RecordsDustin Hansen, Graywhale EntertainmentBill Kennedy, BK MusicJim Bland, Plan NineSteve Wilson, KiefsTom King, Central Square RecordsAlayna Hill Alderman, Richard Storms, Record ArchiveKarl Groeger, Looney TunesPaul Epstein, Twist and ShoutNancy Salzer, Salzer's RecordsRick Ziegler, Indy CDLaura, Finders RecordsDeon Borchard, Nic Fritze, The Long EarChuck Oken, Rhino /Mad PlatterAllan Miller, John Bevis, Disc ExchangeCharlotte Kubat, Magnolia ThunderpussyJohn Kunz, Waterloo RecordsChris Avino, Rainbow RecordsMike Fratt, HomersRich Koch, Off the RecordSkip Hermans, Skip's Record and CD WorldJason Patton, Oz MusicQuinn Bishop, Cactus RecordsJohn Timmons, ear X tacyLou Russell, Lou's RecordsRoger Weiss, Streetlight RecordsTerry Currier, Music MilleniumAndrew Chinnici, Lakeshore Record ExchangeMichael Bunnell, The Record ExchangeMike White, Boo Boo Records    Steve Baron, CD Central    Eric Levin, Criminal Records    Pat O'connor, Culture Clash    Dan Plunkett, End Of An Ear    Paula Kret, Exile On Main St    Chris Penn, Good Records    Doyle Davis, Grimey's    Travis Searle, Guestroom Records    Jim Mcguinn, Hot Poop    Isaac Slusarenko, Jackpot Records    Jason Nickey & Heath Byers, Landlocked Music    Todd Robinson, Luna Music    Darren & Jim Blase, Shake It    Anna & Chris Brozek, Slowtrain    Kimber Lanning, Stinkweeds    Tom "Papa" Ray, Vintage Vinyl