Tifanie Van Laar-Frever
Twitter: @tifanielee 
POWER MOVE: Walmart is the CD format’s last stand in the United States, despite label frets over low pricing.
THE RUNDOWN: When labels typically interact with executives at Walmart -- the second-largest music seller in the United States -- they usually deal with Tifanie Van Laar-Frever. Sure, she reports to entertainment property merchandising VP Chris Nagelson, but he rarely gets involved in music transactions. Van Laar-Frever’s power is still somewhat limited because -- unlike rival Target, which buys and handles its own music section -- the Bentonville, Ark.-based Walmart uses rackjobber Anderson Merchandisers to manage its day-to-day music operations.
“If you’re debuting an album with sales of 200,000 units or more, that’s Walmart’s sweet spot, and Tifanie is very involved,” a senior label sales executive says. “Beyond that, Walmart is reliant on Anderson.”
In the past year, Walmart continued to distinguish itself by aggressively discounting music. Its placement of a CD stand in a “power aisle” outside the music/video department keeps driving significant sales of $5 CDs, helping to prolong the life of the format. Walmart is also teaching consumers to purchase music at various prices, merchandising CDs by grouping various albums together under separate price points.
Major-label executives appreciate the sales volume Walmart generates, but are frustrated by its constant downward pressure on pricing. A particular sore point is Walmart’s apparent inability to understand that recording contract terms legally inhibit a label’s ability to immediately comply with lower-pricing requests. But as 2013 unfolds, anxious label execs are closely watching Walmart to see if it’ll alter the management habits of its music department, and how Van Laar-Frever might figure in those changes.
Tifanie Van Laar-Frever photo by Wesley Hitt