An open letter to Sugarland
About five minutes before we started writing this letter, a customer walked in and inquired about your new CD/DVD release, Live on the Inside. “Do you know if it’s out yet?” she asked. We said that, yes, it was released Tuesday, but that we were not allowed to sell it. She’d have to go to Walmart to get it. “Walmart?” she replied, with an incredulous look. “Really?” She left disappointed, and frankly, we’re disappointed as well.
You guys have been around roughly as long as Decatur CD, and we’ve been supporters of your music from day one. We’ve put your releases on listening stations, given away tickets to your shows and so on. After all, what is a local music scene if not an extended family of sorts? We have to take care of each other.The point is that by shutting the door on independent record stores, you’re in effect shutting the door on your hometown.
We’re not naïve. We understand that exclusively releasing your music with Walmart means big, fat, non-returnable, guaranteed sales, a wide reach, a truckload of money, etc., but what do you get by cutting us out? We’ve read the articles; we understand you think we're insignificant, offhandedly commenting that there are only "two or three" record stores left. But a lot of your fans in the city where you got your start think rather highly of us. They like to buy local. They like to support independent business. Eddie's Attic, another local/independent business, is right down the street. A lot of the people who saw you there in the early days frequent Decatur CD. It’s impossible for us to serve them if you won’t let us.
Take Pearl Jam as an example. For their forthcoming album, Backspacer, Target will be the only big-box retailer who stocks it. But guess what? Independent stores like us, Criminal, Grimey’s, Waterloo, Other Music, Reckless Records and the like (Look, we just listed more than two or three!), real brick and mortar stores that care more about music than any big box ever will (we live for music; we don't merely stock it as a loss leader), can still order the album through an independent distributor. If you insist on striking a deal with a major brand, that's the way it should be done.
Not ones to gripe about a problem without bringing a solution to the table, we present the following proposal: Since we can’t get your new release through our usual means, how about you bring it by the store? Just stop by and sell it to us direct. You know, like a local band. We won’t tell Walmart and you won’t either. Everybody wins! We think this is a fair compromise. According to the tour dates on your website, you’ll be in the area (Alpharetta, to be exact) on Sept. 26th. We hope to see you then. In the meantime, we’ll be turning away customers when they ask for your new album, which is not good for you or for us.