AC/DC is the Next Metallica

AC/DC’s iTunes boycott is on Highway to Hell

When I read about this in the paper the other day, all I could think was how these guys haven’t put out a record in nearly ten years and arguably not a good one in almost fifteen. To hear that they’re so adamantly against digital downloads of their music in this digital age just proves that they’ve gone the way of the dinosaur at this point – apparently not only are they against iTunes, but I couldn’t even find MP3s of their new album in their exclusive dealer’s online music store, either. And besides, what’s up with that – we’re against iTunes because of how they’re strong-arming the music industry, yet we’re partnering with Wal-Mart – the largest, bulliest retailer in the world – for exclusive distribution rights?!

I honestly never really cared for AC/DC anyways, but this move just makes them look foolish. Like it or not, single sales are where the music industry is at this point because consumers got tired of paying $15 for an album that only had four or five good songs and a bunch of filler garbage on them. My guess would be that single track sales tend to be a very hard to swallow truth for many artists because their profits are suddenly based on quality instead of quantity. And I’m sure that these guys are still making cash off of their previous albums, but to exist in this modern world of iPods and digital downloads, I really don’t think that fighting the technology is going to do them any favors.

Oh yeah, and there’s also that thought that if they don’t offer a digital download for fans, chances are they’re just going to steal a copy anyways. I counted a good 10,000 active seeds and leeches on a myriad of torrents for Black Ice just now … I wonder how many paying customers they would’ve had in there had they given folks the opportunity…


  1. The reason is that AC/DC (like the Beatles, Metallica, Radiohead, Pink Floyd, et al.) make a serious amount of money on their back catalog. Whenever a new format comes out, certain people buy certain albums over and over again, like Dark Side of the Moon or Back in Black. By controlling, in every way, the distribution channels for their music, they stand to both ensure that their sales numbers are always relatively high, and, at least with the Wal-Mart deals, they get a ton of free advertising, and save money by distributing to one retailer and then having that ONE retailer do the dirty work of transportation. It makes a ton of money, and it makes the consumer go “Well, I guess I’m going to Walmart.”

    Metallica finally caved when they realized that they were more than a singles-only band like AC/DC would be. Even the deeper, non-single cuts from Metallica provide sales, I’m sure. And since they’re, y’know, Metallica, they probably leveraged a better deal that most indie or mid-level bands could have gotten.

    Also, for the record, Ballbreaker is probably the best album AC/DC has put out since Back in Black.

  2. ALSO

    Most of the torrent folk probably wouldn’t have paid for the album were it from iTunes. They would have just torrented it anyway.

    Personally, I’m not a huge fan of Black Ice, and I think the $12 I paid for it at Walmart was probably two bucks too much, but I bought it because I’m an AC/DC fan. If I like an album, I’ll buy it because I think the artist deserves something. But I’m in the vast minority, especially considering that I’ll download something to check it out and THEN buy it. Most people just download it and call it good.

  3. I agree that those who Torrent probably won’t be buying digital copies elsewhere, although some may do as you do and later purchase a CD that they’ve downloaded freely and enjoyed in an effort to support the artist.

    That said, do you think it was a good move for them to not offer a digital download in any way, shape or form, even via Wal-Mart’s own MP3 store? I can almost understand the whole partnering with a single distributor bit, even though I don’t necessarily agree with it, but to just say “We’re not doing this whole Internet-thing … period.” just reeks of old men who are afraid of new technology to me.

    Like it or not, iPods and other MP3 players are here and CDs are eventually going to fade into the background just as 8-tracks and vinyl and cassette tapes did (at least in the mainstream, anyways). To simply refuse to participate in that move forward just seems like career suicide to me.

  4. I can’t say that I agree it’s career suicide. A lot of bands from the 60s and 70s built the (now-dying) album-oriented industry. It provided a lot of exposure for music that wasn’t necessarily easily-digestible pop singles. Sure, some of the bands that started the trend toward LPs, like the Beatles, cranked out some really great singles. But would Pink Floyd have been able to exist past about 1969 without the move toward album format? I doubt it.

    In some cases, Metallica in particular, bands were simply trying to figure out the best way to make money with the new paradigm. Once they saw that iTunes was a viable, rather copyright-protected, outlet they jumped on the bandwagon, too. I still think, though, that AC/DC would make significantly less money were they reduced to a singles-only market like iTunes. With Jobs’ insistence that all tracks be available individually, the $.99 sales of a million copies of “You Shook Me All Night Long” vs. the $12 sales of a million copies of Back in Black are pretty obvious. (Yes, I realize that most of the AC/DC catalog is $7 at Walmart right now, but the point is still valid.)

    The format may be dying, but most bands and labels will stick with it until it stays profitable and/or a better method of making money comes along. And artists and labels are recognizing that there’s a significant market for vinyl again, so I wouldn’t say that that format has necessarily died, either. It’s a question of adopting a format simply to do it, and I think AC/DC realize that a sizable portion of their audience has never even seen an mp3 player. And considering that they beat out High School Musical by more than 100%. With sales at a single, brick-and-mortar, retailer. No, I think they’re doing just fine.

    Personally, I’ve never purchased a single download except Radiohead’s In Rainbows, which I then bought in the store when it was released as a physical disc (and at a significantly higher fidelity than the download). I think between the two I paid like $15. I don’t like being tied to iTunes, I don’t like the hassle of dealing with a crash and loss of my music. And I like having my mp3s at a bitrate that I choose. And I’ve never dealt with Walmart’s online store, so I don’t really know (or care) what sort of restrictions they have.

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