Amazon’s Cheap Trick

The popular rock band signs an exclusive with the Seattle online retailer.

CHEAP TRICK STILL wants you to want them—they’d just prefer you to show your love by shopping at Amazon.com. The respected rock band will make its new live album, Music for Hangovers, available only at the online record store for 60 days before releasing it to traditional retail outlets. (The promotion begins April 20.)

The alliance between Cheap Trick and Amazon.com comes amidst an array of music-biz wheeling and dealing. Web sites touting MP3s make almost daily announcements boasting new downloadable tracks by well-known artists, and last week, BMG and Universal Music Group unveiled a joint venture called GetMusic, which will compete with online retailers like Amazon.com and CDNow.

But Cheap Trick’s move may be the most controversial, as it’s a snub to brick-and-mortar retail stores—which sold 2 million copies of the band’s 1979 breakthrough concert album, Live at Budokan. It also forces diehard fans to point their mouse at Amazon if they want to be among the first on their block to hear the new album. Some retailers and fans aren’t happy.

“I think it sucks,” says Sean Tessier, an employee at Seattle’s Orpheum Records, who bills himself as Cheap Trick’s no. 1 fan. “It sucks for me because I don’t have a computer, and it sucks for my store because we can’t sell it.”

Cheap Trick manager Dave Frey says he expects such vitriolic responses, but he paints the deal as both more lucrative and market-savvy than the traditional distribution route. He estimates that the band will make a threefold profit on records sold through the Amazon.com arrangement. More valuable is the scope and quality of the information he can gather by selling online. Sellers and advertisers love consumer contact through the Internet because the medium allows them to harvest data about consumers and their buying habits. Frey notes that the ability to chart the demographics and locations of Internet customers will allow him to target certain markets when shipping the record to retail in June. “We’re warming up the pizza for delivery,” he says.

CHEAP TRICK ISN’T the only big cheese looking for fresh approaches to selling records. The widespread consolidation and downsizing of major labels has led to the shunning of older acts, which in turn look to the Internet to maintain fan support—and to make money. With online record retail already making a sizable dent—it’s estimated that 2 percent of all music compact discs are sold over the Internet—more and more artists may look to Amazon and other online outlets.

“This could happen a lot in the future,” says Terry Currier, chairman of the Coalition of Independent Music Stores. But he adds that there may be consequences for bands that completely turn their backs on the traditional stores, which still account for the overwhelming majority of all record sales. “It’s not a retail-friendly move to do this,” he says, ominously.

But Cheap Trick bassist Tom Petersson says that record stores need to adapt to the times. “Retail’s got to get it together,” he says. “Like radio or big record labels, they start to slack off. Once everybody gets comfortable, then they lose it, and somebody else with a better idea comes along and undercuts them.” He sees Cheap Trick, whose first record hit the non-virtual shelves in 1977, as a pioneer. “Everybody’s gonna be in this situation,” he quips. “We just happen to be one of the first.”

More in News & Comment

Federal Way resident Mi’Chance Dunlap-Gittens, 17, died Jan. 27, 2017. Courtesy photo
Law enforcement challenges report on sting operation that killed Federal Way teen

King County Office of Law Enforcement Oversight’s findings rattle Sheriff’s Office, police union.

Unstable housing? Apply for Section 8

Applications open in February for housing vouchers

In 2018, the city of Seattle approved and then repealed a head tax within a month. It would have levied a $275 per employee tax on businesses grossing more than $20 million annually. Sound Publishing file photo
County head tax bill passes committee

Bill would let King County levy a tax on businesses to fund housing and address homelessness.

Gov. Jay Inslee signs the first bill of the 2020 legislative session into law. On the right stands the bill’s primary sponsor, Sen. Jamie Pedersen, D-Seattle, who is wearing a red tie. Photo by Cameron Sheppard, WNPA News Service
Gov. Inslee signs tax bill to help fund higher education

Law shifts a portion of the tax burden to large tech companies.

King County Metro’s battery-electric bus. Photo courtesy of kingcounty.gov
King County Metro bus fleet will be electrified by 2035

Future base in South King County would house hundreds of the zero-emission vehicles.

Three-quarters of the suicide deaths among children ages 10 to 14 are caused by firearms, according to a new report from the Firearm Injury and Policy Research Program at the University of Washington. File photo
King County studies youth gun violence amid rising suicides

It’s unclear what’s driving the trend.

Bonsai burglary: trees worth thousands stolen from Pacific Bonsai Museum in Federal Way

The two bonsai, a Silverberry and a Japanese Black Pine, were stolen from the secured public exhibit area early Sunday morning.

A King County work crew clears a road near Preston on Feb. 7, 2020. Heavy rains appear to have caused multiple landslides along the road. Aaron Kunkler/staff photo
The future could look a lot like this year’s flood season

Climate change is expected to lead to more winter flooding in King County.

High tides, as seen in this file photo of Raymond’s Willapa Landing Park in Pacific County, could become the norm in the future due to sea level rise. Sound Publishing file photo
UW summarizes Washington climate impact on water

The report localizes information from the United Nations.

Most Read