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KISS, Pearl Jam and Miley Enlist for Wal-Mart/Target Battle of the Bands

Wal-Mart and Target are locked in a battle of the bands, but they're focusing on different generations.

Wal-Mart last week announced that it would be the exclusive retailer for the latest album from popular Baby Boom generation rock act KISS. The album, Sonic Boom, will feature the band's first new material in 11 years, with all distribution in the United States and Canada through Walmart, Walmart.com and Sam's Club. The album launches Oct. 6. Wal-Mart plans both in-store and online destination sites as part of the promotion for the album launch, and it will offer elements of the very large catalogue of KISS products available, one that has included everything from action figures to apparel. Or course, Wal-Mart has been working exclusive arrangements and special retail promotions for some time now, generating excitement, exposure and sales with efforts around the release of the Twilight movie DVD and the latest AC/DC album.

Just four days after the KISS announcement, Wal-Mart unveiled another exclusive deal, this for Echo Boom/Millennium generation cross over Miley Cyrus, whose new album, The Time of Our Lives releases Monday. Or Monday officially. Wal-Mart spokesperson Melissa O'Brien told Bnet that some of the company's stores that had the CD in stock have already begun to sell it. The album is something of a bargain arrangement, seven tracks for $8, offered exclusively at Wal-Mart stores and website.

Fans can pre-order The Time of Our Lives CD on Walmart.com, with an available digital album coming in at just $7. In another example of the bonuses offered under exclusive arrangements, consumers who pre-order the MP3 digital album on Walmart.com get the new radio single instantly and at no extra charge.

Coincidentally, or not so very coincidentally, the new Cyrus shorty album emerges just as the clothing line she developed with designer Max Azria is hitting Wal-Mart stores in another, different but now associated exclusive for the retailer.

Behind the KISS, Cyrus and related Wal-Mart initiatives is the idea of drawing consumers into stores based on excitement, newness and a curiousity about what the retailer might be up to next. "And, of course, at a great value," O'Brien said.

Target has lately responded to Wal-Mart's vigorous music and entertainment campaign, but it's not after the Baby Boom or its echo or the Millennials that followed. It's seeking Generation X.

In a partnership arrangement just worked out with Apple's iTunes music store, Target will become the exclusive chain store distribution point for Gen X favorite Pearl Jam's new album Backspacer. The album will be available as a download at Target.com and in a special Target section in the iTunes online store, www.itunes.com/target. The Target microsite already provides shoppers who pre-order Backspacer, scheduled for release on Sept. 20, an instant download of the album's lead single, The Fixer. In another added-value launch element, Pearl Jam will premiere their music video for The Fixer as a free download on the site.

In a recent conference call, Target executive vice president of merchandising Kathryn Tesija enthused:

I'm excited that Target is the exclusive mass retail partner for Pearl Jam's ninth studio album, Backspacer. We forged a unique partnership with the band that allows the album also to be sold online and in independent music stores, respecting the band's fans first philosophy while delivering unique value for Target guests.
Independent integrity aside, the Target microsite is a critical point on which the album release and associated promotional events will turn. Accessible via both iTunes and Target.com, the microsite will provide exclusive album content such as bonus tracks, as well as behind-the-scenes video footage, iPhone apps and other features as a way of making itself more attractive to consumers. Although Target has a big presence in music â€" having forged various deals with performers including The Black Eyed Peas, Prince, Christina Aguilera and John Legend â€" it hasn't managed to establish quite the profile, both for good and ill, of Wal-Mart's efforts. Clearly, Target has an opportunity to change that if it puts some marketing muscle behind its iTunes deal.