CIMS, MMN target retail exclusives.

Two independent retail coalitions are taking a stand against the increasing practice of labels offering certain retailers "superior" versions of albums that have either exclusive tracks or an exclusive sales period.

The Coalition of Independent Music Stores (CIMS) earlier this month issued a policy statement promising aggressive sanctions against labels that offer such exclusives. The policy letter states that the practice is not in the best interest of fans of the artists involved, nor of the long-term health of the music industry, especially the retail community. Moreover, the CIMS statement says, superior versions of albums confuse consumers and undermine the stores that are left out in the cold.

Since CIMS deems the practice anti-competitive and hostile, it has decided to apply sanctions against labels that persist in issuing such exclusives. For each incident, CIMS stores will enforce a "non grata" period of at least two weeks, during which there will be no pricing and positioning for artists on the label, nor will there be participation in contests or other in-store awareness programs.

CIMS says its merchants will continue to stock the label's releases in the bins, but they won't report sales or chart positions for any artist on the label, and they reserve the right to return, without penalty or delay, any product by the affected artist. The non grata time period will escalate with subsequent incidents by the label.

Meanwhile, various merchants in the Music Monitor Network are also taking a stand against the practice. In a policy statement obtained by, some stores in the network object to the exclusives on the same grounds that CIMS cites. The MMN stores, however, are protesting in a seemingly less aggressive manner.

Their policy statement encourages labels to use unique marketing strategies to increase sales across the board, rather than issuing superior versions of albums for some merchants. These creative strategies aim to increase business for all music retailers, instead of simply shifting market share from one group of retailers to another -- which, the MMN members claim, is what exclusives do.

While this conciliatory policy is pared down from one MMN members were considering endorsing at NARM, sources suggest that labels that ignore the MMN position will also suffer members' ire through some kind of sanctions.