Retailer's Response is to iTunes Exclusive, Not Ocean's Sexuality
Target will not be carrying Frank Ocean's debut studio album, "Channel Orange," in response to the label's decision to sell it ahead of its scheduled release date via iTunes -- not due to Ocean's sexuality -- according to statements from the company and Ocean's manager. iTunes is the sole digital seller of the album until July 17.
Ocean admitted in a recent Tumblr post that he had a past romantic relationship with a man. In a tweet early Tuesday, Ocean's manager, Christian Clancy, implied that the admission influenced Target's decision not to carry the album, although he quickly deleted the Tweet and has since recanted.
"Target has refused to carry Frank's album because of iTunes exclusive," Clancy's initial Tweet on the matter read. "Interesting since they also donate to non-equal rights organizations." Target was at the center of a controversy last year in which it cancelled a $10 million television campaign for Lady Gaga's Born This Way album, reportedly due to differences over the company's support for political candidates opposed to gay rights.
In response, Target issued a statement to Billboard.biz that reads: "The claims made about Target's decision to not carry the Frank Ocean album are absolutely false. Target supports inclusivity and diversity in every aspect of our business. Our assortment decisions are based on a number of factors, including guest demand.
"Target has a longstanding tradition of supporting music and artistry that reflects the diverse landscape of American culture. Our history of partnering with diverse artists includes recent partnerships with a variety of musicians, such as Ricky Martin, B.o.B., and Gloria Estefan."
Soon after, Clancy backtracked from his original statement in a series of tweets: "I apologize for my comments about Target. They are not carrying Frank's album because it went digital first. Not for ANY other reason. … My response was simply an emotional knee jerk reaction. … Stop. Breath. Do the best you can. Be honest. Keep it moving."
Apparently addressing the iTunes exclusive, Target said in a statement: "At Target, we focus on offering our guests a wide assortment of physical CDs, so our selection of new releases is dedicated to physical CDs rather than titles that are released digitally in advance of the street date."
Channel Orange -- released by Def Jam and distributed by Universal Music Group Distribution -- made its iTunes debut shortly after midnight on the morning of July 10, when Ocean performed on "Late Night With Jimmy Fallon." The album also began streaming on Ocean's Tumblr page. While the iTunes release was marketed as a surprise, it had been in the works for weeks, sources told Billboard.biz; an unnamed Def Jam rep and "Fallon" booker Jonathan Cohen told Entertainment Weekly the same thing earlier this week. "The announcement of the early digital release was part of the plan from the very beginning," Cohen said.
How much all of this will affect Ocean's first-week sales remains to be seen, but Channel Orange is soaring past early, pre-release sales forecasts: at press time, the album looked set to debut at No. 2 on the Billboard 200 next week with a robust 100,000 to 120,000 copies -- nearly all from Apple's iTunes Store.
Initial forecasts had pinned its start somewhere in the 40,000 to 50,000 range. That would have fallen in line with the bows of Odd Future's own debut studio set The OF Tape Vol. 2 earlier this year (No. 5 with 40,000) and Odd Future member Tyler, the Creator's Goblin (No. 5 in 2011 with 45,000).
While the album's CD version wasn't publicly scheduled to go on sale until July 17, physical retailers have been told by Universal to start selling the album as soon as they receive it. Thus, some physical CDs will be in the mix when the album makes its debut on the Billboard 200 next week.
Based on past situations in retail, it seems possible that Target was not informed about the iTunes exclusive in advance -- which is usually the retail procedure with exclusives -- and may have cancelled its order of the Ocean album when they learned about it.
At press time, neither Ocean nor the label had granted Billboard.biz's requests for comment on the situation.