Springsteen: “Wal-Mart Deal a Mistake”

Bruce Springsteen’s latest greatest hits package showed up exclusively in Wal-Mart this week, and now the Boss is admitting the deal was “a mistake.” Wal-Mart has wretched labor practices at home and abroad, the Boss has always supported labor–that’s a pretty big “mistake. So what happened?

In an interview with the New York Times out tomorrow–just  in time for his Super Bowl show–the singer, a longtime union advocate offers this mea culpa:

We were in the middle of doing a lot of things, it kind of came down and, really, we didn’t vet it the way we usually do. We just dropped the ball on it.. given its [Wal-Mart's] labor history, it was something that if we’d thought about it a little longer, we’d have done something different. It was a mistake. Our batting average is usually very good, but we missed that one. Fans will call you on that stuff, as it should be.

How you could not know in an instant Wal-Mart’s labor history? And maintaining a client’s ethos and ethical foundation/image by vetting deals is sort of important for the “team.”

But John Landau, Springsteen’s manager told Billboard:

I know these discussions happen online and elsewhere, and I don’t want to get bogged down in them, but let’s start with the premise that Bruce is already in Wal-Mart. Wal-Mart has been 15% of our sales in recent years. It’s not a question of going into Wal-Mart; we’re there. They, and other retailers, are all looking for some way to differentiate themselves, and we try to accommodate each one.

Landau continues to juggle the ball he dropped:

We’re not doing any advertising for Wal-Mart. We haven’t endorsed Wal-Mart or anybody else. We’re letting Sony do its job making sure the record is well-presented in as many places as possible..

How exactly does an exclusive deal with Wal-Mart present the record in “as may places as possible”? According to entertainment attorney Helen Yu, who represents a number of platinum selling and Grammy-award winning artists:

Usually in an exclusive deal, the retailer buys a certain number of records up front, with no returns. It’s a guaranteed sale.

So Springsteen’s record label, his team and The Boss himself have managed to insure they will be paid, no matter what, whther the greatest hits package is actually bought by fans or not.

Wal-Mart, which opposes the Employee Free Choice Act has this to say about their employment record:

We are proud of the good jobs, benefits and career opportunities we provide to more than 1.4 million U.S. associates who choose to work at Wal-Mart and serve our customers every day.

Charles Cross, author of Backstreets: Springsteen, The Man and his Music told MSNBC:

Doing a deal with Wal-Mart goes against his principles that he has said he has stood for.

But then the music industry is just that, a business, and people are in it to make money. Even the Boss.

35 Responses to "Springsteen: “Wal-Mart Deal a Mistake”"
BooRadley | Saturday January 31, 2009 09:15 am 1

Thanks Lisa.

digg is open

dakine01 | Saturday January 31, 2009 09:35 am 2

Shorter Landau, “I’m an idiot and you can’t prove it to me.”

allan | Saturday January 31, 2009 01:19 pm 3

NPR gives Walmart CEO H. Lee Scott (who is retiring today)
a big sloppy kiss.

Union-busting, schmunion-busting.

billybugs | Saturday January 31, 2009 01:24 pm 4

I’m not a big Fan of the boss .I always felt he was a commercial sellout!

Dru | Saturday January 31, 2009 01:27 pm 5

I’ve been skeptical of Bruce’s judgement since he came out in support of Bush and his war on Afghanistan. At least, in regard to WalMart, he is admitting to his “mistake”.

hackworth1 | Saturday January 31, 2009 01:30 pm 6

Springsteen and Landau – Ok, you got us. We’re cheap and unprincipled… Like Walmart. Unlike Walmart, we’re lazy too. It was so much easier to do one deal with the devil than to work.

darkblack | Saturday January 31, 2009 01:35 pm 7

Landau has been in the business of selling product from the beginning, and his client’s principles (convenient or otherwise) are merely incidental to that.

Springsteen, while a talented and entertaining performer at the close of the day is just that – not a generational spokesperson or a beacon of enlightened philosophy.

And he, too, is in the business of selling product. Himself.

dakine01 | Saturday January 31, 2009 01:39 pm 8
In response to darkblack @ 7

Yep. Landau’s been riding the Springsteen gravy train since just after he wrote an article praising Springsteen as “the future of Rock ‘n’ Roll.

frandor55 | Saturday January 31, 2009 01:43 pm 9
In response to darkblack @ 7

I agree, Springsteen is a musician, not a labor leader or politician, he admits he made a mistake.
Not much to make a whoop do wooo over.

darkblack | Saturday January 31, 2009 01:44 pm 10
In response to dakine01 @ 8

He was an influential journalist who saw his main chance and took it – Actually, his second main chance, after the MC5’s Back In The U.S.A. debacle.
Numerous conflicts of interest on the way – But in his defense, he believes in his client and didn’t try to assrape him the way Tom Parker did Elvis…So, point for him.


dakine01 | Saturday January 31, 2009 02:03 pm 11

Book Salon at the Mothership with Ennis Carter Posters of the People, Art of the WPA

PapaZita | Saturday January 31, 2009 02:06 pm 12

Landau loses the point right back by assraping any fanbase that’s left. If he and Springsteen don’t understand the persona built by them over the years would look rather tainted after this, they’re really dumber than I ever expected. AFAICT, he’s got a couple of choices – A) Doing a bunch of labor organizing gigs for nothing, or B) Openly admit he’s a careerist sellout and take the consequences.

paz3 | Saturday January 31, 2009 02:15 pm 13

Springsteen, while a talented and entertaining performer at the close of the day is just that – not a generational spokesperson or a beacon of enlightened philosophy.

Fair enough, your ‘O’ here, but name some you feel are “generational spokesperson[s]” for a reference.

Also, what makes anyone think that most rock stars and their managers are as honed in to every political nuance, like Wal*Mart labor issues, as participants in a blog like the FDL group is…

darkblack | Saturday January 31, 2009 02:21 pm 14

Landau loses the point right back by assraping any fanbase that’s left.

But that’s a manager’s job, PapaZita. A percentage of fame has its grave responsibilities.


I think it’s safe to assume that anyone with a 30-year plus career in the music business is a careerist sellout by definition, with the only consequences being that the public will eventually tire of them and move on the the next distraction.
Some skirt this somewhat due to a gift for reinvention (Bowie, Madonna) but most have to wait until the ferris wheel goes around again and hope that they’re not too decrepit to climb on.

Beerfart Liberal | Saturday January 31, 2009 02:22 pm 15

To anyone critical of Brue, this Jersey Guy says: “Leave Bruce The Fuck Aloooooone!!!!!” He’s done tons for charities and fans. He was there for Kerry and Obama (and other people). He’s done alot for people locally in NJ. He fucked up and admitted it. Let’s just all enjoy the show tomorrow.

Beerfart Liberal | Saturday January 31, 2009 02:24 pm 16
In response to Beerfart Liberal @ 15

Bruce not Brue.

Lisa Derrick | Saturday January 31, 2009 02:24 pm 17

when osmoene has a true interest in a a social issue they pay attention, and Springsteen’s persona has been built on and his efforts directed towards everyman/labor issues.

Wal-Mart labor issues have been all over the news for decades, and is pretty hard to overlook even when scanning newspapers for sports scores. Even when I was shallow little entertainment writer, and then when I wrote for a religious history magazine–neither of which are particularly labor oriented subjects–I knew from just half assedly watching the new that Wal-mart had some dicy practices.

darkblack | Saturday January 31, 2009 02:32 pm 18
In response to paz3 @ 13

Paz3, I don’t think of pop stars in those terms at all. For me, it’s a different type of societal relevance. Some over the decades have pretended to it (Pete Townsend), then claimed it was meaningless fun but IMO the media forces that role upon the willing and unwilling for the most part – Dylan had it thrust upon him, learned to cope with it but perhaps felt that it was ultimately a detriment and hard to live up to.

As for the political nuances tuning of managers and stars, It’s hard for me to avoid cynicism on that topic.
In my experience, stars are mostly concerned with stardom – how to get and keep it, and their positioning in the panoply of fame – and management is concerned with finessing those same stars into a profit position to increase their percentage.
Altruism isn’t really a factor, when weighed against expediency of commerce.

darkblack | Saturday January 31, 2009 02:38 pm 19
In response to Beerfart Liberal @ 15

All they ever want is more, more, more!


Indeed, he has done much in the way of charitable work over the years, and none can deny that. I suspect this is a case of audience transference to a degree – forcing someone in the public eye to live up to some high standard in all matters, and offering a terrible wrath when they fail.

But Wal-Mart is the Devil.


californiarealitycheck | Saturday January 31, 2009 02:41 pm 20

i doubt the (oversight) mistake was nothing more than a short term business decision. Oh, sorry. i made an extra 10 million. sure.

Beerfart Liberal | Saturday January 31, 2009 02:47 pm 21
In response to darkblack @ 19

all true. time to move on, yes? I’m sure on one hand I’ll love the show tomorrow and on the other will be disappointed. 15 minutes. On this wal-mart thing, the people who love him won’t be bothered; the people who really don’t will criticize. oh well. watcha gonna do?

Beerfart Liberal | Saturday January 31, 2009 02:49 pm 22

i figure, springsteen talks and actively supports candidates and causes so when he screws up like this, he’s got to be held to account. and he has been. admitted a fuck-up. done.

bssmith | Saturday January 31, 2009 02:51 pm 23

They Don’t Call Him “The Boss” for Nothing

Leave the Boss alone. I live in the working class town of Detroit. According to Case-Schiller, Detroit homes have lost 45% of their peak value. All I know is I can’t sell my house for less than I paid for it.

The “Boss” probably has a home(s). The “Boss” probably has a mortgage(s). This Wall Mart deal will help him make his payments.

Viva the “Boss”

mack | Saturday January 31, 2009 02:57 pm 24
In response to bssmith @ 23

The Boss is very unlikely to have a mortgage.
As for Detroit property values, as long as I can remember real estate has been a losing gamble in that region. Worse now, but the trending over the past 30-odd years has generally sucked vis-a-vis the rest of the country.

STTPinOhio | Saturday January 31, 2009 03:02 pm 25
In response to Beerfart Liberal @ 22

Agreed. He manned up and admitted his mistake.

He got lots of positives on his ledger, very few negatives as I understand it.

We’ve got much bigger enemies to worry about than Bruce Springsteen.

Much ado about very little, IMHO.

Beerfart Liberal | Saturday January 31, 2009 03:05 pm 26
In response to STTPinOhio @ 25

agreed 100%

hackworth | Saturday January 31, 2009 03:06 pm 27

If Walmart can’t sell out (at full retail price) all the Springsteen CD’s they bought in this deal, they won’t want to do any more exclusive buys. If they sell like hotcakes Walmart will want to do another exclusive deal with Bruce. We shall have to wait and see if Bruce makes the same “mistake” again.

dakine01 | Saturday January 31, 2009 03:07 pm 28
In response to STTPinOhio @ 25

He got lots of positives on his ledger, very few negatives as I understand it.

But when he does do a negative, it is necessary to call him on it, which is what has been done.

Keep him honest and true to his professed ideals.

Beerfart Liberal | Saturday January 31, 2009 03:10 pm 29

yup. i think his professed ideals really are his ideals. he’s genuine, i think.

mamazboy | Saturday January 31, 2009 03:36 pm 30
In response to Dru @ 5

He’s only “admitting the mistake” after it’s a done deal. He’s crass and fake-populist, ultimately only interested in his bottom line, and so is creepy Jon Landau.

darkblack | Saturday January 31, 2009 03:37 pm 31
In response to hackworth @ 27

Exactly. It’s a bottom-line scenario.

Something for people to consider: What’s left of the once-mighty record business is still being operated by the same guiding ‘principles’ that it had prior to its decline.

An artist of Springsteen’s caliber is a marketable commodity whether the retailing of his product is done through multiple retail entities, or just one…But it is sound business sense, irrespective of optics, to sign a distributive retail contract with one entity which guarantees a certain amount of purchased units and responsibility for promotional materials over negotiating and signing numerous such contracts with smaller retailers to potentially achieve a similar level of sales.

A’ Bird in the hand vs. more in the bush’ decision, if you will.

STTPinOhio | Saturday January 31, 2009 06:24 pm 32
In response to dakine01 @ 28

But when he does do a negative, it is necessary to call him on it, which is what has been done.

Which is fine, but once he says “My bad”, let’s move on to the real Rovian-type villains out there.

sunshine | Saturday January 31, 2009 09:57 pm 33

I am glad the Walmart problem was acknowledged by Springsteen. Maybe Garth was listening too because he did the same thing a couple years back. It is a start and that is what we need. I thank Bruce for delving into the issue, acknowledging his mistake and expect other singers may learn from his mistake.

Lisa Derrick | Sunday February 1, 2009 07:53 am 34

All he’s said is that he made a mistake. Let’s hope he finds a way to rectify that, perhpas by supporting the Employee Free Choice Act.

Millineryman | Sunday February 1, 2009 05:25 pm 35

He made a mistake, he admitted it and a lot people have been feed thanks to his work with food banks during his career. It’s good to keep people honest, I’m glad you called him on it.

As a Springsteen fanatic who helped support him in his days before Born to Run, I have no problem calling him on this.

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