August 18, 2009
Wal-Mart Stores Inc., the world's largest retailer, will offer a $12 CD set with rock band Kiss's first new music in 11 years, and plans to expand into other merchandise licensed by the group.

The collection will go on sale Oct. 6 exclusively at Walmart and Sam's Club stores in the U.S. and Canada, said Tom Welch, senior music buyer at Walmart, in an interview Aug. 13. The set includes "Sonic Boom," an 11-track compact disc with new material; a greatest-hits album with titles such as "Rock and Roll All Nite" and "I Was Made for Loving You;" and a DVD of a live concert in Buenos Aires.

Exclusive deals with retailers typically give artists more money than a traditional record contract, while helping chains such as Walmart and Target Corp. get more customers to the stores. Kiss joins the Eagles, Guns N' Roses, AC/DC and Pearl Jam in striking deals with retailers to distribute music.

"This is the world we live now where the artists get a much bigger percentage of sales," said Steve Gordon, a music industry attorney in New York.

Kiss, which started in the early 1970s as a New York-based rock band called Wicked Lester, is still led by its co-founders Gene Simmons and Paul Stanley. Over 32 years, Kiss has recorded 36 albums and sold more than 75 million copies.

The band drew attention for its costumes and face paint, smoking guitars and fireworks on stage. Its site sells items such as Kiss baby jumpers, wine, 11-inch rubber footballs, necklaces, shoes and mugs. In May, Kiss performed on News Corp.'s Fox television show American Idol, the most-watched primetime program in the U.S.

The Kiss Brand

"I've been impressed with the way the Kiss brand has been able to reinvent itself over the years," said Greg Hall, 38, Walmart's vice president of media and services. "I'd say the Walmart mom loves Kiss and looks fondly back on that as one of the first concerts she went to."

Walmart plans to sell Kiss merchandise other than the new CD/DVD set, Hall said. The specifics of those products are still being worked out, he said.

"As we talked to other merchants within Walmart, they're just as excited about this as the music team is whether it be toys or apparel or candy," said the music buyer Welch, 34. "They're saying this brand resonates with Walmart customers."