But really. Beyoncé's sneak-release of Beyoncé not only got everyone talking, it managed to set simultaneous records by selling 617,000 copies in the U.S. and 828,000 worldwide, in three days, with iTunes as its exclusive distributor. The digital music store will lose its stranglehold this week, however, as physical retailers will receive the CD/DVD set — a gift that Target is actively refusing.
"At Target we focus on offering our guests a wide assortment of physical CDs," Target spokesperson Erica Julkowski told Billboard, "and when a new album is available digitally before it is available physically, it impacts demand and sales projections." In other words: Since there's a chance we might sell fewer copies than we'd hoped (for an album no one knew was coming), we'll sell zero copies instead.
Further quote from Julkowski sheds some light (our italics): "While there are many aspects that contribute to our approach and we have appreciated partnering with Beyoncé in the past, we are primarily focused on offering CDs that will be available in a physical format at the same time as all other formats. At this time, Target will not be carrying Beyoncé's new self-titled album 'Beyoncé.'"
You see, when Queen Bey released 2011's 4, she offered Target an exclusive version featuring no fewer than six bonus tracks. She also recorded a television commercial for the store, in which she shills pretty hard: "I put so much into my new album, and only Target gives you all of it." But if Beyoncé's release is about anything more than shock and awe, it's about not kowtowing to the way things were.
Like, she released two videos today within an hour of one another — "Drunk in Love" with Jay Z and "XO" — just 'cause. And so far, even with all the hype, fans and critics seem to agree that the music (and visuals) holds up very well. With Christmas on the immediate horizon, and Target a go-to for last-minute shoppers, it stands to reason the retailer would sell plenty of copies of this release.
Walmart rightly sub-shaded their competitor in a quote to Billboard, saying they're "happy to be able to carry her album and support all physical music." Only in this scenario is that place a bastion for the preservation of tangible albums, but next to Target's stodgy stance, Sam Walton could pass for a Record Store Day proponent. This was undoubtedly a "pick your battles" moment.