In news that will be sure to make Apple executives jump with joy, Amazon and Target are refusing to stock the CD version of Beyoncé’s new album to protest the fact that she released it first on iTunes. So Beyoncé went shopping at a Wal-Mart in Tewksbury, Mass., on Friday night. After walking through the store pushing a cart like everyone else, she gave 750 shoppers a $50 gift card—a giveaway totaling $37,500.
Hijinks aside, there is a lot of money at stake here. Beyonce gave iTunes a one-week exclusive to sell the album, “Beyoncé,” and it shifted 600,000 units during the period at $15.99 each. That’s $9.5 million in total sales.
So far, it appears that Amazon and Target may be cutting off their noses to spite their faces. Despite Apple’s head start, Billboard reports that Sony and Columbia still managed to ship more than 500,000 units of the CD before the general release date. (Amazon is selling the MP3 version of the album; Target is selling neither the digital nor CD edition.)
Why would Amazon and Target want to make enemies of Beyoncé, whose antics in Wal-Mart have made them look petty? They probably have their eye on the long game. This is only $10 million or so in lost sales between the two companies, after all—not even a rounding error in either company’s revenues. And most artists are not Beyoncé—they need Amazon and Target more than Target and Amazon need them.
So even though they know they will lose their fight against Queen Bey—she’s giving away money in Wal-Mart, haters!—they’re sending a powerful message to the 99 percent of other record companies and musicians: Do not screw with us by giving preferential treatment to Apple and iTunes, or we will severely curtail your album sales in our stores.
Disclosure: Jeff Bezos is an investor in Business Insider through his personal investment company Bezos Expeditions.