WTF? Springsteen CD Exclusively at Wal-Mart?!

I thought Bruce Springsteen was pro-labor. Then I read that The Boss’ Greatest Hits will be released exclusively by Wal-Mart. Okay, its only his greatest hits, which you can download anyway song by song if you have the patience. But still, wtf?

Some of my illusions about Springsteen were destroyed at a concert in the mid-80s when an usher told me that every night he pulled a girl out of the audience at exactly the same time for “Dancing In the Dark”–naive me, I thought that was like, spontaneous.

Could Springsteen’s exclusive release be a reward for Wal-Mart’s attempts at reform? Okay, the mega-retailer has made some effort, but not from the goodness of their own heart. They were forced.

In May, 2008 the mega-employer expanded their anti-discrimination policy to included transgendered employees, a proposal made by shareholders, and opposed by the WalMart board of directors.   And today the New York Times reports:

Wal-Mart said  it would pay at least $352 million, and possibly far more, to settle lawsuits across the country claiming that it forced employees to work off the clock…In a case still pending, Wal-Mart has appealed a 2005 verdict in which a California jury ordered it to pay $172 million for making employees miss meal breaks.

But Wal-Mart spokesman Dave Tovar told the Associated Press in August:

We believe the Employee Free Choice Act is a bad bill and we have been on the record as opposed to it.

Way to support diversity and the unions, Bruce.

And Wal-Mart’s health coverage sucks. The company covers around 50% of its employees, while nationally, 64% of workers at very large firms (5,000 employees or more) receive their health benefits from their employer.

Susan Chambers, Wal-Mart Executive Vice President for Benefits, for the Wal-Mart Board of Directors, wrote in a 2005 memo:

Specifically, our coverage is expensive for low-income families, and Wal-Mart has a significant percentage of associates and their children on public assistance.

That’s taxpayer money. And its morally reprehensible. Surely WalMart, the world’s largest retailer with its gianormous profits, could kick down more cash to cover the cost of employee health care.

And don’t get me started on Wal-Mart’s manufacturers.

The Boss could have found a much more socially responsible way to release his Greatest Hits.

43 Responses to "WTF? Springsteen CD Exclusively at Wal-Mart?!"
NelsonAlgren | Wednesday December 24, 2008 10:27 pm 1

The thing is, He’s already released a Greatest Hits. In fact, there really is no reason for anyone that is a Bruce fan to buy this. Why is he doing this? I don’t know. Did Wal-Mart promise them some sort of financial package? I wouldn’t know. I agree with you though, it still sucks.

newtonusr | Wednesday December 24, 2008 10:48 pm 2

Disappointed in Bruce.
Can’t be the money, but then…

dakine01 | Thursday December 25, 2008 06:06 am 3

I saw that and WTF was my reaction as well.

So much for “Bruce is a friend to the workers of the world”

4jkb4ia | Thursday December 25, 2008 07:19 am 4

Exactly. He probably thinks that it is outreach to the non-fans. And Wal-Mart will promote the crap out of it as they did with AC/DC.
Simply for the harm to independent record stores, these album exclusives are bad news.

puppethead | Thursday December 25, 2008 07:26 am 5

Perhaps “The Boss” isn’t really the boss of his own music. This sounds a lot like a recording label’s attempt to squeeze more profit out of songs they own the distribution rights to. Throw together yet another “greatest hits” collection and get a bunch of new sales now that a recording artist’s popularity is rising again.

I’m inclined to consider this the work of an evil record label before condemning Springsteen. Or I could be completely wrong.

ratfood | Thursday December 25, 2008 09:29 am 6

I don’t need any more reason to boycott Walmart than the fact that they have too little respect for their customers to open a sufficient number of check-out lanes. A half hour of my life squandered waiting to pay for their crap is worth more than any price savings.

SouthernDragon | Thursday December 25, 2008 09:40 am 7
In response to puppethead @ 5

Ding. As long as Springsteen is signed with a major label he has little say over what they do.

outragebroken | Thursday December 25, 2008 09:40 am 8

This has nothing to do with the evil record label – quite the contrary actually.

The exodus of high end recording artists away from traditional distribution and into exclusive agreements is all about retaining rights to one’s master recordings and royalties. Those who can afford to forge agreements while circumventing the labels will gladly do so.

WalMart has issues, obviously, but when it comes to the goal – the most extensive retail source possible – it comes down to Springsteen’s operation (band, road crew, business affiliates, management, etc.) making an effort to create its own business entity outside of the label points system. Retailer exclusivity – regardless of the retailer – is a declaration of independence from the label system.

Beerfart Liberal | Thursday December 25, 2008 09:42 am 9

Bruce has a deservedly good rep. He walks the walk. This is pretty inexplicable. Like others have said… no reason for him to do this. None at all. This Jersey boy knows there must be some explanation. Right, Bruce.

nonplussed | Thursday December 25, 2008 09:42 am 10
In response to SouthernDragon @ 7

Good point.

SouthernDragon | Thursday December 25, 2008 09:42 am 11

Amy is doing a repeat of a show she did a few years ago. One segment is on songwriter Yip Harbug.

I couldn’t find a version sung by Yip so…

Brother, Can You Spare A Dime

SanderO | Thursday December 25, 2008 09:43 am 12

I never did get the obsession with pop songs and pop singers and what amounts to “idol worship”. Most of them have little talent, though not all. But when you consider at how much pop music dominates and pervades our culture the talent really makes up a tiny percentage of what we have to endure.

Music is something of universal appeal. But it’s also something which can be very disciplined. I tend to like the music produced by artists who have studied and paid their dues as opposed to those who get a drum kit or a guitar and rant. But there is a place for this sort of minstrel work and Bob Dylan, Paul Simon, Joni Mitchell and Bruce are right up there. But how can we listen over and over and over and over again to the same stuff especially when it lacks real musical complexity and subtlety?

I can’t take rock music, hardly ever could and find Janis Joplin completely annoying to listen to, but Pete Seeger is another story. I suppose it’s the narcissism of pop singers which puts me off so much and I don’t want to support narcissism.

I prefer that we have more silence and les crap filling the air.

Beerfart Liberal | Thursday December 25, 2008 09:45 am 13

Yeah. Read some of the comments. This is so un-Bruce. he probably doesn’t have control. And it’s not just him, for whatever it may be worth. It’s the greatest hits oh him and the E Street Band. So, Federici’s estate gets some money. It may not care here it gets it from. This looks to be a $10.00 piece of shit.

chrisc | Thursday December 25, 2008 09:47 am 14

Maybe he is “reaching out” to Walmart.

Malacandra | Thursday December 25, 2008 09:53 am 15

I’d like to hear more before rendering a negative judgement about someone who has decades of work and a sterling reputation for his support of labor and working people.

I love progressive politics, but our community is all too ready to believe the worst – and toss under the bus – allies on the basis of a single misstep.

I’m inclined to believe, in the context of the rest of Springsteen’s life, that this was a business decision made by businessmen who may have acted without Bruce’s knowledge or approval. If I find out differently, I’ll revise my opinion of Springsteen. Until then, he gets the benefit of the doubt.

bonkers | Thursday December 25, 2008 09:56 am 16
In response to SouthernDragon @ 11

That song is getting pretty popular again during these times.

I like this version also:

RieszFischer | Thursday December 25, 2008 09:58 am 17
In response to SanderO @ 12

Well said. One nitpick: I wouldn’t put Bruce in the same class with the other musicians you mentioned. I’d rather listen to Jack Bruce.

marshen | Thursday December 25, 2008 09:58 am 18

I think these artists get paid a lot for “exclusive” rights to distribution by Wal-Mart. Garth brooks has done it too, and he is BFF with the Al Gore’s.

tanbark | Thursday December 25, 2008 10:11 am 19

Ditto on the checkout lines. And, it aint like they’re paying the help such juicy wages that opening more lanes would make a dent in their bottom-line.

FWIW, I refuse to use the automated checkouts. Don’t want to stress the well-paid machines. :o)

Hugh | Thursday December 25, 2008 10:14 am 20

So is the new Boss the same as the old Boss?

ratfood | Thursday December 25, 2008 10:15 am 21
In response to tanbark @ 19

Last time I was there every line of customers had doubled over, including the automated lanes. Abandoned my cart and walked out.

PapaZita | Thursday December 25, 2008 10:19 am 22
In response to SanderO @ 12

Heh, what amusing irony, “Less crap filling the air”. Your rant was longer than any other post here, and had little to do with the topic.

ThingsComeUndone | Thursday December 25, 2008 10:25 am 23

Specifically, our coverage is expensive for low-income families, and Wal-Mart has a significant percentage of associates and their children on public assistance.

This alone is a post if you work full time your kids should not be on public assistance.

KayInMaine | Thursday December 25, 2008 10:26 am 24

Seems to me he did this to get more sales/exposure.

I saw him at Gillette Stadium this past summer. He was fantastic!

ratfood | Thursday December 25, 2008 10:31 am 25
In response to ThingsComeUndone @ 23

Walmart purposely limits the number of full time employees to prevent people from qualifying for additional benefits. I suspect that mostly only managers and higher are full time.

goldpearl | Thursday December 25, 2008 10:35 am 26

im not the mega fan i used to be, (always prefered bruce to to dylan), but i still have so much respect for him that i’ve decided to reserve judgement on this until i hear from he has to say about this deal w/ the dreaded walmart.

maybe he’s spreading it around a bit – a la the way obama did w/ his selection of the 2 polar opposite reverend’s for his inauguration.

bruce did an album debut exclusively thru itunes a few weeks ago…..


we shall see

Funnydiva2002 | Thursday December 25, 2008 10:38 am 27
In response to ThingsComeUndone @ 23

that may be part of it, TCU
keeping everyone at juuuuust few enough hours that they’re not full time and subject to all those pesky roooooolz.
And that exec made that statement like it’s a good thing, or an acceptable thing. Borderline sociopath anyone?

Funnydiva2002 | Thursday December 25, 2008 10:39 am 28

I owe ya a beverage, Ratfood
not from walmart, though…

Funnydiva2002 | Thursday December 25, 2008 10:40 am 29

And WHERE are my manners?
Happy Holiday, pups! Hope you’re all feeling safe, warm and loved!

Ann in AZ | Thursday December 25, 2008 10:51 am 30
In response to ratfood @ 25

Walmart purposely limits the number of full time employees to prevent people from qualifying for additional benefits. I suspect that mostly only managers and higher are full time.

What’s the problem? They figure they’re doing a public service, keeping middle class wages low so that they can remain competitive with the Chinese and other third world countries! If folk here were better off, do ya think they’d be shopping at Walmart?s

Millineryman | Thursday December 25, 2008 11:03 am 31

I’m deflated by this. Since the article mentions both, and the Super Bowl appearance I suspect it has to do with the people who may not be familiar with his music.

Also it’s the songs with him and the EStreet band so maybe it’s something the record company is doing.

Whatever the case, it makes a lousy Christmas that much worse.

ratfood | Thursday December 25, 2008 11:16 am 32
In response to Funnydiva2002 @ 28

Spiked eggnog seems apropos.

Funnydiva2002 | Thursday December 25, 2008 11:18 am 33
In response to ratfood @ 32

Cheers, buddy!

ratfood | Thursday December 25, 2008 11:21 am 34
In response to Funnydiva2002 @ 33


Ann in AZ | Thursday December 25, 2008 11:27 am 35
In response to ratfood @ 32


ratfood | Thursday December 25, 2008 11:29 am 36
In response to Ann in AZ @ 35

Plenty for everyone. Hold out your glass…

sunshine | Thursday December 25, 2008 12:12 pm 37

Garth Brooks did this a couple of years ago. Love him but won’t step inside Walmart.

mamazboy | Thursday December 25, 2008 12:26 pm 38

Has anybody heard of Bruce making a statement about this? responding to the criticism? I wish he’d say something. Maybe we’re missing his reasoning. I know I’m confused!

Lisa Derrick | Thursday December 25, 2008 01:18 pm 39

The story just came out–and as soon as there’s a response form Bruce or his camp, I’ll be happy to post it.

SoFlaJet | Thursday December 25, 2008 03:56 pm 40


Another new album? Well, yeah, sorta — Bruce will be kicking off the new year not with Working on a Dream, but first following in AC/DC’s footsteps with a Wal-Mart exclusive Greatest Hits album. Scheduled for January 13, and at a low price point, it looks to serve as a Super Bowl primer for the big Half Time show a few weeks later. It’s distinguished from 1995’s Hits album by the artist: not Bruce Springsteen this time, but Bruce Springsteen & the E Street Band. 12 tracks skip over the non-E Street records like Nebraska, Tunnel, Human Touch, Lucky Town, and Joad, to provide a broad career overview from “Rosalita” through “Radio Nowhere”:

1. Rosalita (Come Out Tonight)
2. Born to Run
3. Thunder Road
4. Darkness on the Edge of Town
5. Badlands
6. Hungry Heart
7. Glory Days
8. Dancing in the Dark
9. Born in the U.S.A.
10. The Rising
11. Lonesome Day
12. Radio Nowhere

freethought | Thursday December 25, 2008 04:24 pm 41

As several others have noted, Bruce probably has very little to do with this, although we can’t really know without knowing the specifications of his recording contract. “Greatest Hits” albums are almost always done to fulfill an artist’s obligation to a record company, and, depending on the specifics of the contract, are sometimes done without the artist’s permission or (sometimes) prior knowledge. It all depends on the relationship Springsteen has with his label. I’m not saying he definitely has nothing to do with it, but he very well may not. In any case, it’s things like this that are causing more and more artists to release their work directly over the internet with no middle man, or through ITunes et al as Bruce did recently (according to goldpearl @ #26).

The strength of record labels was always in their distribution/marketing power and their control of recording studios — but times are a’ changin. It’s quite easy now for musicians to release online, and that’s where more and more people are buying music anymore anyway. And with the advent of Digital Audio Workstations (DAWs) like Logic and Pro Tools, more and more people are able to record from the comfort of their own home, and with more creative control. I think these exclusive Walmart deals and such (I think Best Buy has done a few of these too) are a last-ditch marketing effort by the labels to stay profitable. If it works, it won’t be for very long. Marketing is all they’ve got left. Thus, the Super Bowl/Greatest Hits album/Wal-Mart thing.

richeye | Thursday December 25, 2008 09:11 pm 42

The Superbowl is completely separate from the Walmart deal and has everything to do with marketing the new “real” album. If one looks at his own website, there is no mention whatsoever of this Walmart deal. That, in itself, speaks volumes; particularly given how much other self promotion is on the news page. I’m with those who think Bruce has less than nothing to do with this. I do wish he would speak out against it himself, but silence is golden.

Cellar47 | Friday December 26, 2008 09:18 am 43

Meet the new Boss same as the old Boss.

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