White Collar Criminals

CHINESE DEMOCRACY: NOW ONLY SLIGHTLY MORE EXPENSIVE THAN A ROLL OF TOILET PAPER

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While both The Deciblog’s Shawn Macomber and myself both think that Chinese Democracy is pretty great, two music critics does not a hit album make. The record shit the bed when it came out in 2008, and Best Buy, who paid untold millions of dollars for the exclusive rights to sell physical copies of the album in the United States, were left holding the bag — I can’t find the exact figure right now, but I know they had to buy X million copies outright, and I know they weren’t allowed to return/sell back any copies they failed to get off their shelves. In other words, Axl Rose and Geffen Records ended up making out like bandits despite the album’s colossal commercial failure — they ended up not losing any money on the record’s fifteen year creation process, and they even got to claim that the album went platinum, because it did, technically, ship a million units. (For the record, as of this writing, it’s sold roughly 600,000 copies.) Meanwhile, if you’ve checked the shelves at your local Best Buy recently — and I have, for shits n’ giggles — there will literally be dozens and dozens of untouched Chinese Democracy CDs.

So what the crap is Best Buy gonna do with all those unsold units? Sell ’em for $1.99, that’s what.

This is embarrassing for Best Buy, but it’s actually way more embarrassing for Axl Rose, who was once one of the biggest rock stars in the world. And the worst part is, I have no doubt it could have been prevented. I know there are people who think a Slash-less GN’R album was never going to sell well, and that could be true, but Rose never even really made a go of it with this album. Two and a half years after its release, his nu-GN’R still has yet to do a U.S. tour; the video for “Better” that Rose assured fans was in the works never materialized, and neither did any of the special editions with alternate cover art that Rose promised were in the works; he didn’t give any real interviews, nor did he allow his band mates employees to give any real interviews… the list of ways in which he screwed the pooch goes on and on.

I don’t actually know what the heck is going on in Rose’s mind — he seems to think his label and his label alone are at fault for the album’s lackluster performance — but I kinda suspect he’s like this dude Vince and I grew up with, who was a total friggin’ genius, but never really accomplished anything because (I believe at least) he thought that if he never really tried, he could never really fail. He got A and D’s exclusively in school — never a grade in-between — because if a class was easy for him and he knew he could do well, he applied himself, and if it wasn’t, he didn’t, because he could never feel bad about getting a bad grade if he didn’t study… he could just tell himself “Well, if I had read the books or whatever, I would have done fine.” I think Axl never really got behind Chinese Democracy because if he did do a tour, a video, proper interviews, etc., and the album still undersold, he wouldn’t be able to point the finger at others and blame them for the weak sales.

But it’s a moot point now I guess; Appetite for Destruction famously sat on shelves for a year collecting dust until the band released “Sweet Child O’ Mine” as a single, but I can’t see some power ballad coming to Rose’s rescue now… especially since he continues to refuse to make any reasonable efforts to promote the release. But if you’ve ever been even remotely curious about Chinese Democracy (or just wanna see the STAGGERING amount of misprints and typos that appear in the CD booklet), you will probably never beat the price of two bucks, so order the album here. Vinyl copies are the same price, which is also pretty fucked-up/funny. (iTunes and Amazon are still charging ten bucks a pop for digital downloads, which is kind of amazing, considering Best Buy’s move.)

And while you’re contemplating all this nonsense: a few weeks after the album’s release, Vince did a bang-up job of outlining all the ways in which promotional efforts for this album were a complete disaster, fairly laying the blame at the feet of not just Rose, but Best Buy and Geffen, too. You should read that shit.

-AR

[via Metal Insider]

 

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