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Mariah Carey and the product placement album

August 3, 2009 |  1:37 pm


Buying the new Mariah Carey album is going to be an experience akin to dining at the Cheesecake Factory. Copies of forthcoming "Memoirs of an Imperfect Angel" will come bundled with a 34-page booklet --- a "co-production with Elle magazine," is how Billboard words it -- that will feature advertisements from major luxury brands alongside the typical CD liner notes.

It's a development, perhaps, a little less shrewd and a bit more transparent than Chris Brown disguising singles as an ad for chewing gum, but one that has the potential to become more prevalent. The Island Def Jam Music Group will be watching the success of the program and is "eying bigger brand deals for booklets of CDs by Rihanna, Bon Jovi, Kanye West" and more, writes Billboard.

It's the artist as full-fledged lifestyle brand, and brings more overt product placement to the CD. One of the main components of the campaign underscores one of the music biz's largest problems: declining shelf space for CDs at major retailers. Antonio "L.A." Reid, chairman of Island Def Jam Music Group, is quoted in the Billboard article as saying "we don't have music retailers any more."

It's an exaggeration, of course, as anyone who's been to Amoeba Music can attest, but does illustrate the major label view of the world. Indeed, getting Mariah's CD out of the music section may be the best thing that could have happened to "Memoirs of an Imperfect Angel."

The album will be sold alongside Carey's new perfume (Arden) at Walmart, where CD shelf space is relatively small. Recall that AC/DC's Walmart exclusive "Black Ice" became one of last year's top-selling rock efforts, and was featured prominently outside of the store's music section. Long-term, if the move works for the label's bottom line, it will continue to de-emphasize music sales as a measure of success, all the while giving labels a reason to keep the cost of the CD from dipping below $10 (includes an exclusive Mariah-approved booklet!).

Already, Carey trackers have speculated that sales of lead single "Obsessed," a song that gives a shout-out to Windex, are not moving as fast as some of her past singles. The cut has hovered outside the top-10 on the U.S. singles chart, and the album was pushed back from late August to early September. But when more pieces of an album are underwritten by corporations, sales become a less reliable source for a release's relative success. In this case, it can even save the artist from a tepid lead single

--Todd Martens

Photo: Getty Images