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Universally Speaking

The Universal Music Group's decision last week to lower the wholesale price of its CDs from $12 to $9 sounds like just the tonic needed to jump-start the moribund music industry, but some of the inevitable strings attached are causing raised eyebrows at local indie powerhouse Waterloo Records. Applauding Universal's move, saying, "We've been championing lower CD prices for a long time," Waterloo owner John Kunz says he's concerned because the money for the price cut will come out of the marketing budget for new and developing artists, a large part of independent stores like Waterloo's allure. "I fear a lot of really interesting artists at that midlevel will suffer," he says. Additionally, to be eligible for the new lower price, retailers must agree to devote one-third of their display space to Universal product, a figure roughly double what Waterloo does now. Kunz says he finds it ironic that, due to the demand for increased space, local and regional artists like Pat Green, Blue October, and the Polyphonic Spree might have found themselves squeezed out of the store were they not now signed to the label. Kunz has less than two weeks to decide whether to agree to the label's terms -- the parties are now in negotiations -- and says that he and other indies will have to deal with the fallout regardless of what happens. "It's got incredible implications," he says. "The record industry isn't exactly known for its altruism -- the ultimate winner here is going to be Universal."

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Christopher Gray, June 29, 2007

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Christopher Gray, June 22, 2007

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