You Spin Me Round: Amy Winehouse Re-Ignites Import Debate

Amy Winehouse certainly knows how to stir up drama; while we obsess over her rail-thin body, filthy shorts, and sky-high beehive, music retailers obsess over another Winehouse issue: import albums. For over forty years, record labels battled retailers over their right to carry imported music in the US. The debate died down at the turn of the century, but with Winehouse’s meteoric rise and the huge demand for more of her music, the debate fired up once again.

While Winehouse’s international label, Universal Republic, doesn’t mind her latest disc, Back to Black, sold in the States, they threatened legal action against US retailers selling her 2003 disc, Frank. Most stores quickly complied, but some protested, claiming fans will get the music one way or another.

“We are selling physical product that the customers want, and they are trying to stop us,” one merchandiser said. “In the meantime, it is flowing freely throughout the world over the Internet through the (peer-to-peer) sites.”

Some merchants and wholesalers said the tone of Universal’s letter left a lot to be desired. “There didn’t seem to be a lot of thought behind it besides bullying and greed,” one music merchandiser said.

More on the release of Frank after the jump.

To the chagrin of import store owners, Universal Republic announced plans to release Frank in the US, cashing in on Winehouse’s American success. Import stores, usually independently owned and operated, will lose their recent windfall to the big chains and discounters.

Regardless of which side of the debate you’re on, Frank is an amazing disc. I’ve had the good fortune to hear it thanks to internet magic and foreign download services, and I recommend it for fans. If you don’t want to wait until November 7 for the American release, support your local business; buy it at your independent import store.

MP3: Amy Winehouse – “Strong Than Me