I love country music. I do not love Walmart; I don’t even like Walmart. So when I hear on the radio that certain artists are selling their albums exclusively at Walmart or editions exclusively at Walmart, it bothers me.
This is nothing new. Many artists have exclusive deals with Walmart or other big box stores. A June 2008 New York Times article discusses how Walmart is the largest music retailer in the country; thus artists want to be on good terms with the company. This giant chain can do the marketing and more than the record labels can handle; thus sales increase. Examples used in the article are about Journey and the Eagles. Other examples of artists that sell exclusively or exclusive editions at Walmart include Garth Brooks, Sugarland, AC/DC, Taylor Swift, Keith Urban, and Carrie Underwood. Here is a post from savingcountrymusic.com discussing the Sugarland + Walmart deals, and the negative affects an arrangement has on local record stores.
Granted, everyone has free will and the right to shop wherever they please. So artists can sell wherever they want. What bothers me about country musicians, in particular, is that so many sing of small town America, the good ol’ days, local places and people – essentially, the local economy and close-knit communities. Well, last time I checked, Walmart does not contribute to local economies. Actually, Walmart kills Main Street America, whether it’s in a large urban area or a small crossroads in the middle of America. So how can you sing about the greatness of America and then have exclusive deals with the idea/business practice that is killing it?
Sure, you could go ahead and make the same old argument that America’s poorer populations don’t have any other options besides Walmart and that the poorest groups of people live out in the middle of nowhere and need Walmart. You could say that, but that is a horrible generalization – it’s as bad as me outright denying it. Under privileged and poor sections of our population live everywhere, so it’s not a valid point here.
Nor is this a position of being a snob, someone who is above Walmart or the products they sell or of associating with shopping there for whatever social stigma you can think of. No, if I believe myself to be above Walmart, it is because I am above destroying Main Street America and contributing to the poor planning and suburban sprawl.
Back the point. What can we do about this? What did I do about this? Sugarland is my absolute favorite country music group. I was disheartened to find that one of their albums was sold only at Walmart. I did not buy that one. Is that the answer? Probably not, but that was my stand on the issue. For now.
My bottom line? I’m disappointed in country music, as the lyrics and messages of the songs are clashing with actual practices of the artists.