UPDATE: Looks like Billboard has confirmed the story. It was indeed a Target commercial, but it appears that Target won't be a true retail exclusive—just a big-box exclusive. The band will be doing some cross-platform craziness that includes the indie coalitions, presumably CIMS and AIMS, which represent some of the best (but not all, of course) indie stores in the country. Sure, it's still a big deal with a corporation, but probably the least offensive situation one could imagine, given the alliance. Pearl Jam, you're okay by me! (You totally care, right?)
The ol' Internet is abuzz with a rumor that Pearl Jam's next album will be a retail-exclusive in Target stores. (Presumably meaning no other stores—including all of those struggling indies—would be able to carry it, but that Pearl Jam would be able to sell it online themselves, or however they choose.) This rumor is attached to the filming of a Target commercial starring Pearl Jam—directed by Cameron Crowe.
The buzz comes from Antiquiet.com, which if you'll recall is the same place that got in a pinch o' trouble for leaking the majority of Chinese Democracy waaaaaaaaay before it came out. Check it out, they've even got a picture from the filming, which features a Target logo on Mr. Vedder's guitar. (But he's got a Sonic Youth shirt on, so it's still cool, right?)
Some commentary? Sure. Pearl Jam have always taken a staunchly anti-corporate BS, pro-fan stance, doing their best to give fans a square deal in the face of changing times. Target, while still a massive corporation, has a pretty solid philanthropic and environmental record. (It's no Wal-Mart, and that's a good thing.) If this whole thing is true, I'm sure they'll have an explanation ready soon. (That said, threads on the official Pearl Jam forums regarding this topic have been unceremoniously deleted.)
And on the other hand: Retail exclusives, while legal, are a pretty shitty thing to do for a buck. In a small way, it helps drive small independent stores further into the ground—helping belittle the little guy that Pearl Jam has always championed. Another thing: Tickets for Pearl Jam shows have shot up over the years. Even Eddie Vedder's solo shows cost in the neighborhood of $100, when all (Ticketmaster) charges were factored in. (Total cost for two tickets, including service charges, for Pearl Jam's upcoming United Center shows: $161.58.) Also, there's just something inherently icky about these corporate cozy-things, no matter the explanation. There's a difference between signing to a label that's owned by a multi-national and actually aligning yourself musically/philosophically with one by appearing in a commercial.
Maybe they'll chat about it Monday night as the musical guests on the first Conan O'Brien-helmed Tonight Show episode. They're apparently set to play at least two songs from their forthcoming record.