Beyoncé surprised the music industry last Friday by releasing her new album exclusively on iTunes without any pre-release announcement, shattering digital records with 617,000 copies sold in three days. But the surprise fallout: Target won't be selling the album.
"At Target we focus on offering our guests a wide assortment of physical CDs, and when a new album is available digitally before it is available physically, it impacts demand and sales projections," Target said in a statement released to media outlets.
The release continued, "While there are many aspects that contribute to our approach and we have appreciated partnering with Beyoncé in the past, we are primarily focused on offering CDs that will be available in a physical format at the same time as all other formats. At this time, Target will not be carrying Beyoncé's new self-titled album 'Beyoncé.'"
On her last album released in 2011, "4," Target received an exclusive release with six additional tracks. She also previously starred in a TV commercial for the retailer. Target similarly last year declined to sell R&B singer Frank Ocean's blockbuster album, "Channel Orange," after its week-early release on iTunes.
The pop diva's fifth album, which reaches physical stores on Friday, is expected to top the Billboard album chart this week.
Billboard estimates that iTunes, owned by Apple, is the largest seller of music in the U.S., with about a 41 percent share of the market in 2012. Walmart has 10 percent, followed by Amazon, 9 percent, and Target, 5 percent. Walmart plans to sell the album, with a spokesman telling Billboard the chain was "happy to be able to carry her album and support all physical music."
Speaking to ABC News, Can Erbil, an economics professor at Boston College, said Target is "upset and maybe a little jealous" about the market clout of iTunes.
"The whole saga is a very interesting marketing reality show starring Beyoncé, iTunes and Target," said Mr. Erbil. "Beyoncé's move is new, but the motivation behind it seems to be good old microeconomic theory, flexing its market power muscles."
Did Target go too far in its decision not to sell Beyoncé's new album due to its early release on iTunes?