Wal-Mart Serves Exclusive Online Music

Wal-Mart may be a name which springs to mind when you’re in the market for, oh, maybe cat litter, box fans, or a cubic yard of bath tissue. But when you’re jonesing for exclusive performances and interviews with top bands and musicians?

Well, that’s exactly what Wal-Mart is offering up with Walmart Soundcheck, a new digital music offering set to feature a series of in-studio performances and interviews with leading and upcoming music artists. The service is intended to make Wal-Mart seem a little less stodgy and a little more hip in the eyes of customers, particularly young music buyers who might eschew Wal-Mart’s otherwise homogenized offerings.

Initial segments feature the punk-pop outfit Yellowcard and rock band Switchfoot, with a segment featuring Miranda Lambert coming soon. Wal-Mart says future segments will feature pop, rock, punk, country, hip-hop, and R&B artists.

Each show is 30 to 40 minutes long and can be played for free on Wal-Mart’s Soundcheck site, and fans can download audio tracks from the performances from Wal-Mart for a fee. They’ll also be playing on televisions in Wal-Mart’s electronics departments, and stores will host “viewing events” on Friday nights every few weeks. (We’d like to provide details on pricing and technology, but Wal-Mart’s music download service only supports Internet Explorer.)

Perhaps the most interesting aspect of Wal-Mart Soundcheck is the company getting into the content production business and using its substantial retail presence to promote and distribute the content which it exclusively sells. Apple has been seeing some success with “iTunes Originals,” tracks created for (and exclusively available through) its iTunes Music Store in terms of making iTunes “sticky” for online music fans: with the right content, perhaps Wal-Mart can convert some of those same music consumers into fans of its low-cost goods.