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From the Globe:

You can't always get what you want

Band's DVD set expected to be hot seller



Wednesday, October 29, 2003 - Page B1

Major Canadian music stores have pulled all Rolling Stones products from their shelves, outraged over the band's exclusive deal to sell a DVD set only at Best Buy Co. Inc. and its Future Shop Ltd. stores through the key holiday season.

HMV Canada Music Stores Ltd., which removed the merchandise yesterday, is also looking into whether there are grounds to lodge a complaint with the federal Competition Bureau, on the basis that the exclusivity pact with one retail chain puts rivals at a disadvantage

"Yes, we are offended," Humphrey Kadaner, president of HMV Canada said. "We are the leading music and DVD retailer in Canada. We have supported the Rolling Stones over the years."

Added Tim Baker, buyer for Toronto's Sunrise Records, which is also boycotting the Stones: "We've made them an awful lot of money over the decades. Now they're just acting greedy."

The veteran rock group's four-disc DVD set, called Four Flicks and due Nov. 11 from TGA Entertainment, is expected to be one of the holiday season's top sellers.

HMV alone estimates Four Flicks would have generated as much as $500,000 in sales between now and Christmas -- while sales of other Rolling Stones merchandise may have rung in up to $1-million over that period, Mr. Kadaner said.

The exclusive deal runs until early in the new year, Best Buy Canada spokeswoman Lori DeCou said. It is the first time the company has taken advantage of a deal struck by its Minneapolis parent for music product exclusivity, she said.

Michael Cohl, chief executive officer of TGA Entertainment, said Best Buy offered to sell the set for the lowest price -- $39.99 -- in Canada.

He said a number of other "distributors" would have sold the set for at least $20 to $30 more, "something which was unacceptable to the Stones and TGA," said Mr. Cohl, a Toronto music promoter who helped spearhead the giant Rolling Stones SARS benefit concert in that city last summer.

The deal allows TGA and the Stones "to offer a fantastic product at an amazing price for the holidays for their fans," he said.

Industry insiders suggested that Best Buy paid the Stones a hefty premium for the exclusivity rights; Ms. DeCou did not provide details about the deal.

Mr. Kadaner acknowledged that a complaint to the Competition Bureau may not fly because the agreement was made with the artists rather than with their record company, EMI.

"We think it's very unfair to consumers," he said. "We don't think exclusives of this type are in the best interest of the industry."

The music industry has been hit hard over the past few years, squeezed by on-line downloading and mounting competition from non-specialty retailers, such as Best Buy, Future Shop and Wal-Mart, which often sell music cheaply to get shoppers in the door.

Dan Kuczkowski, vice-president and general manager at Music World, said the 100 stores across Canada pulled about $100,000 worth of Stones inventory.

My concern is: What's next?," Mr. Kuczkowski said. "Am I going to be told that the next major artist will only be available at Wal-Mart?"

A&B Sound, which has 22 stores in Western Canada, will continue to carry Stones products, said Lane Orr, A&B's vice-president of merchandising.

"Obviously, I'm not happy with it," Mr. Orr said. "But if you're a music retailer and not carrying the Rolling Stones, there's a bit of a disconnect there."

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