REO Speedwagon Played a Wal-Mart
Here's some Saturday night fun for the "that's the saddest thing I've ever heard" file (h/t Cable & Tweed).
REO Speedwagon became a rock icon with number one hits "Can’t Fight This Feeling" and "Keep On Loving You." They played giant stadiums in the 70’s and 80’s, but Friday they performed at the Walmart in Eagan (Minnesota).
The band is promoting it’s first new album in a decade and it has an exclusive deal with Walmart.
"I’ve been watching them for 30 years," said Jay Powell from Cottage Grove, "and I had to come to Walmart to meet them, I never would have thought that."
This is where we're at, kids. Never mind the embarrassment of hearing that the Speedwagon had to roll up to the Wal-Mart to get out their message of rock. No, the sadness here is that it was such a good business move for them. In far too many small towns, the Wal-Mart is pretty much the only place you can physically buy new music. It's completely normal and great to see in-store performances at Virgin or Amoeba Music or HMV; this is just an extension of that. But the fact is that there's literally NOWHERE ELSE TO GO in much of the country other than a big-box store if you're a band and you want to reach people. The 'wagon admits that.
Walmart has an exclusive deal to sell a three CD set that includes a DVD and some greatest hits. For two weeks it is the only place to buy the new music.
"We're people-people," said lead singer Kevin Cronin, "and this is where people come to buy music."
Teaming up with a big retailer like Walmart or Best Buy is the latest sales gimmick by artists targeting adults.
"Because they're the ones still buying music in the CD jewel case form while their kids are downloading it for their iPods," said John Rash, Director of Media Negotiations for Campbell Mithun Advertising.
Of course, this isn't limited to music. The Wal-Marts of the world have muscled out the competition in lots of sectors. It's become the de facto town square, and now, an events center.
We can imagine what this means for the culture. Wal-Mart can and has dictated what they will sell in their stores. That's their right, but when they're the only game in town, it has the effect of walling off music or art or magazines or books to entire regions of the country. The Internet obviously mitigates this effect, but not completely. The culture becomes homogenized, then, as bands have to sign exclusive deals with department stores to ensure their distribution.
I think there's a larger point here beyond it being unbelievable that Kevin Cronin took to the stage Friday and yelled "Hello, Wal-Mart!"
The question is, given this development, how far are we from this being on the pop charts?