Frank Ocean’s coming-out announcement hit the mark with fans. But his team missed the point with a message to Target, the retail giant that refused to stock the singer’s debut album, Channel Orange.
On July 11, Ocean’s manager Christian Clancy tweeted that the label’s decision to release Channel Orange one week earlier figured into Target’s decision to keep it out of the store. But he didn’t stop there. He suggested that Ocean’s recent announcement, that he once had a love affair with a man, affected the store’s decision.
“Target has refused to carry Frank’s album because of iTunes exclusive,” Clancy wrote, in a tweet that has since been removed. “Interesting since they also donate to non-equal rights organizations.”
When Ocean’s manager accused the retail chain of harboring an anti-gay agenda, Target fired back, citing a dedication to diversity.
“The claims made about Target’s decision to not carry the Frank Ocean album are absolutely false,” a Target representative said in an statement to CBS Local. “Target supports inclusivity and diversity in every aspect of our business. Our assortment decisions are based on a number of factors, including guest demand.”
To be sure, Target did carry Jay-Z and Kanye West‘s Watch The Throne despite the album’s early digital release. While the company did not answer questions regarding Throne‘s rollout, it is not an uncommon practice to bargain for exclusives.
“I think this policy Target has now came into existence this year,” said Keith Caulfield, Billboard’s Associate Director of Charts. “But because Frank is so newsworthy, this became a much larger sexy story.”
ROOTS OF A BOYCOTT: THE EMMER EFFECT
Clancy is not the first to accuse a retail store for selectively blackballing an album. In 2009 Chris Brown went on a tear against Walmart, claiming the mega store did not stock shelves with his Graffiti album. But this accusation against Target dug up the 2010 controversy, in which gay rights groups protested Target and Best Buy for making donations to a Political Action Committee that supported Tom Emmer, a conservative Minnesota gubernatorial candidate that had reported ties to a controversial anti-gay Christian rock band called You Can Run But You Can’t Hide.
Bradlee Dean, the band’s leader, who was at he heart of the 2010 Target boycott, described the original targeting of Target as misguided.
“[The 2010 controversy] all started because Someone saw me shake hands with Tom Emmer at a fair,” he told CBS Local. “The next thing I knew, the homosexual community had me as someone going door to door on his campaign. That wasn’t the case. Then the homosexual groups went to Target and boycotted, saying I supported Emmer and he supported me.”
TARGETING THE GAY COMMUNITY
While the details are murky about the Emmer debacle, a spokesperson for Target says they’ve learned from the past experience and have since revamped their donation process.
“We have apologized for the effects of our 2010 donation and we established a Policy Committee to review future corporate political donations.” Target maintains that their support of Emmer was strictly on the basis of his pro-business policies.
This is a point upon which Bradlee Dean agrees.
“For them to not sell Frank Ocean’s album because he’s gay doesn’t sound like it’s something they would do,” said Dean, who believes homosexuals need to repent and wants to protect kids from pro gay-rights messages. He cited Target’s latest promotion where the company is selling “Pride” T-shits and donating the proceeds to Family Equality Council, a nonprofit that supports the LBGT communities. While Target rankled gay-rights groups in 2012, they are now receiving complaints from the oposite side.
Despite the handwringing on behalf of Ocean’s camp, Channel Orange, which was released exclusivel on iTunes July 10, is on track to sell up to 120K in its first week, which puts it on par with Usher’s Looking 4 Myself (128K) and Chris Brown’s Fortune (135K).
“They weren’t really going to ship that many physical copies,” said Billboard’s Caulfield. “There wasn’t that much of a demand [early on]. Even if Target had sold it, there wouldn’t have been that much to sell. In the short term, it won’t affect the sales much either way.” —Erik Parker, CBS Local