Given her position as Walmart's senior music buyer, Tifanie Van Laar, 36, is a force to be reckoned with. But Van Laar is proving to have much more going on than just that role. She spearheads the gigantic retailer's music presence in a decade where its market share has halved from about 20% to 10% in the United States, Billboard estimates.
Yet its clout has never been as powerful as it is today. Walmart has single-handedly forced the major record companies to reprice its catalog at much lower wholesale prices, which has resulted in catalog albums now consisting this year as a majority of album unit sales, the first time that has occurred in the SoundScan era.
Moreover, the $5 CD rack that Walmart installed early last year began to pick up steam when Van Laar joined the music team, and now it's proving to be the driving force behind notable numbers. In 2011 the industry experienced its first positive sales growth in nearly a decade, with a 1.4% album unit sales growth over 2010. And this year, the $5 CD is keeping album sales within reach of at least a flat year, although so far that category is down 2.8%.
Reaching 140 million shoppers every week, the Walmart endcap was ranked the fifth-most valuable promotional platform on Billboard's 2011 Maximum Exposure list -- and the source of Van Laar's clout. Van Laar is known and respected for her decisive leadership in setting promotional strategies and choosing which artists will be the beneficiary of Walmart's selling power.