In a possible attempt to ensure that Google Play and Amazon don't use Taylor Swift's just-released Red album as a loss leader priced below $3.49, Big Machine Records has not serviced the album to those stores, a source confirmed to Billboard.biz.
In fact, the only digital merchant carrying the album is iTunes, which typically charges full list price on all albums; it has a one-week exclusive on the album's digital sales, Billboard.biz confirms.
A search for the album on Google Play comes up empty and a track listing of the songs on the album are not featured in the Swift track section on the site. The MP3 album also doesn't come up on the Amazon site either, although that store is carrying the CD version of thealbum.
Google confirms it will have the album next week.
Both Amazon and Google have been known to price albums under $3.49 -- Billboard's pricing threshold (which, when violated in the first four weeks of an album's release, excludes sales for every unit sold under that price, when computing sales totals that determine the Billboard 200 ranking). But since the Billboard policy went into effect, both Google and Amazon have mainly reserved their loss-leader pricing strategy for titles available for more than four weeks, when they are seeking to drive traffic.
Recently, however, Amazon priced Frank Ocean's Channel Orange at $2.99, which means none of the copies sold by that merchant counted toward the Billboard 200 chart that week. That Amazon pricing move was perceived by the industry as a retaliation against the artist and his label, Island Def Jam, for providing iTunes with an exclusive one-week window to sell the album ahead of other outlets.
While the CD is widely available, Big Machine has provided Target with an exclusive version of the album that has six extra tracks and is perceived to be superior to the ones sold to other merchants, something that has riled up the indie-store account sector. Walmart also has an exclusive version, containing a 96-page magazine, stickers and other paraphernalia.
This may also have factored into their decision not to service the MP3 version of the album to Amazon, which is carrying the CD version but usually doesn't violate the Billboard pricing policy in that format.
In any event, it seems that the label is making sure that digital versions of the album priced below $3.49 are not cannibalizing sales from merchants selling the album at a price above that threshold.
Every sales needs to count this week if Red is to going to generate 1 million units in sales in its debut week -- as projected -- and become the first woman artist to do so twice in the SoundScan era.
Reps for Big Machine and Amazon either were not available or declined to comment.
Additional reporting by Glenn Peoples.