As iTunes grows in sales, department stores fight back

William Channell and William Channell

It’s not often two of the nation’s largest retailers refuse to carry an artist’s album because it sold too well, but that’s exactly what happened throughout the holiday break when both Target and Amazon.com refused to stock Beyonce’s new self-titled album.

According to Billboard, Target and Amazon.com have decided to decline carrying physical copies of the album in protest of Beyonce’s decision to give iTunes one-week-long exclusive selling rights, during which time the album sold 600,000 copies digitally in the US. Amazon.com will still sell the album digitally and through third-party sellers. Target in particular cited an impact in demand and sales projections when an album is released digitally first.

Some see Target and Amazon.com’s refusal to carry the album as the continuation of a trend that has existed for years. William Nobalowski, an instructor in the economics department, said digital media has grown in the past decade faster than many thought it would.

“I think it’s sort of illuminating if you look back on media sales,” Nobalowski said. “People saw it as a slight threat to physical media … they didn’t see it as much of a threat as it has become.”

One business that has felt this threat is Finders Records downtown. Owner Greg Halamay said while there has been a definite affect on business, there’s been a resurgence in demand for physical media lately.

“We’re entering a new cycle,” Halamay said. “Physical sales are sort of regenerating because people are realizing the enjoyment of a physical product.”

Nobalowski said the physical media trend could grow in the future, and depending on how stringent Apple is in the future with digital right management, more market share could be given to physical distributors.

Freshman Michael Watson may be one of the people Halamay mentioned who are contributing to the rejuvenation of physical mediums.

“Through a lot of the music that I listen to, [the artists tries] to make it a personal thing,” Watson said. “To me, I’ve always found the physical album has a better sound quality.”

Freshman Breana Rossen is likely more indicative of the average music consumer.

“Sometimes I get CDs for my car,” Rossen said. “If I just want it on my iPod, I’ll get if off iTunes.”

Watson said he understands where the industry is going, even if he doesn’t necessarily agree with it.

“You gotta go where the money is,” Watson said. “[Businesses] are going to have to figure out a way to make money digitally.”

Despite the trend, Halamay said he has no intention for the time being of offering any digital arm within Finders Records, despite the fact he has the means to.

“We originated ourselves as a physical store,” Halamay said. “We try to stick with that.”

When reached for comment, Target declined to answer questions.