400,000 People Really Don’t Care About AC/DC Holding Itself Back From The Internet

Yesterday’s New York Times had a story on how AC/DC is standing up against the digital age: The band is putting out Black Ice via brick-and-mortar outlets only next week, with Wal-Mart getting the CD exclusive and indie stores being allowed to sell it on vinyl. Angus Young told the Times that his band’s resistance to going digital was rooted in the idea of iTunes selling chunks of albums instead of full-length records: “It’s like an artist who does a painting… If he thinks it’s a great piece of work, he protects it. It’s the same thing: this is our work.” Well, someone in the chain of getting the album to stores didn’t quite get the memo on AC/DC’s analog ways, or maybe they just found it hypocritical that AC/DC was OK with selling single songs as ringtones, but not as 99-cent downloads, because Black Ice leaked last week, and according to estimates, it’s been downloaded some 400,000 times from BitTorrent alone.

That estimate doesn’t include downloads from third-party sites like Rapidshare, which was definitely used to acquire at least one copy of the album (cough, cough). Sure, this experiment is helped by AC/DC’s catalog is still selling relatively well; last week, Back In Black scanned 9,200 copies, landing it at No. 2 on the Pop Catalog chart (it would have placed in the mid-60s were it still on the Billboard 200). Perhaps because of this staying power, Wal-Mart has apparently guaranteed that the album would sell 2.5 million copies–not only would that be a drop in the bucket compared to the BitTorrent numbers, it’d be a big uptick from the not-even-platinum scans of 2000′s Stiff Upper Lip, and a ballsy move in a miserable climate for people wanting to spend money on essentials, let alone CDs. But apparently the Arkansas megachain is the place for fans of Angus and his mates to shop:

Although AC/DC was criticized by religious groups in the ’80s for songs like “Highway to Hell” (which is actually about the difficulty of life on the road), the band is so popular at Wal-Mart that the chain was responsible for half the band’s sales last year, according to Columbia. The retailer is setting up special areas devoted to AC/DC in each of its stores, where it will sell the band’s albums, DVDs and “Rock Band” game, as well as a selection of T-shirts and other clothing. At a time when music stores are closing, the band says the Wal-Mart deal makes sense.

Indeed, Wal-Mart is the only place for many people to find copies of new albums these days. But will that exclusivity even matter to consumers when they’re nervous about scrounging up the cash for that week’s meals, and when a free copy of Black Ice is only a Google search away?

Ageless and Defiant, AC/DC Stays on Top Without Going Digital [NYT]
AC/DC Downloads Hit 400,000 Prior To Physical Release [Inquisitr]
Earlier: AC/DC Barrel On Down The Road

  • Anonymous

    I think Axl Rosenberg sums it up nicely:
    “I literally care so little about a new AC/DC album that I don’t even want a free copy”


  • Audif Jackson Winters III

    This will sell pretty well, both in first week and through the end of the year as a holiday present. Probably not as well overall as the Eagles’ Wal-Mart exclusive, though.

  • Chris Molanphy

    ALERT! Great news!

    Our campaign to stop the double-counting of RIAA-certified doub… is working! Here’s the 18th paragraph of the article (italics mine):

    AC/DC had its first big hit in the United States when the producer Robert John (Mutt) Lange gave its guitar riffs a pop shine on the 1979 album “Highway to Hell.” The next year, after the singer Bon Scott died in a misadventure with alcohol, the band recruited Mr. Johnson. The group’s next album, “Back in Black,” has sold about 22 million copies in the United States, making it the fourth best-selling album in American history.

    You only get “fourth best-selling” if you use my revised system. I think this is the first time I’ve seen the Times get this right.

    Why yes, thank you, I will take a victory lap!

  • Anonymous

    I wonder how well an AcDc/Metallica stadium tour would do in the states next summer (considering the plummeting economy, gas prices, etc.)

  • Al Shipley

    I will never ever understand why some bands who owe their success to radio singles like to pretend as if their albums are sacred structures which they couldn’t bear to break up to be enjoyed as individual songs.

  • Chris N.

    “Let Me Put My Love Into You” loses all of its pithy nuances if you haven’t been prepared by hearing “Given the Dog a Bone” first.

  • TheHeartless

    Far as I’m concerned, that first physical copy of the album is going straight to the internet, for people to illegally download regardless. Long as there are going to be versions floating around there, you might as well make your legal version available to try and get some money out of it. This is insanity.

  • davidm

    The Wal-Mart near my parents has been selling this CD for at least 2 weeks.

  • doublewhiskycokenoice

    the internet pirating of this album is just another specific issue in a bevy of factors in proving ac/dc’s thesis, that it really is a long way to the top if you want to rock and roll.

  • Maura Johnston

    @davidm: Can you send me photographic evidence of that claim??

  • davidm

    @Maura – I’ll try and stop over there tonight. They were definitely there 2 weeks ago when I was buying stuff. No quarantee they’re still out, but I’ll try and run over there tonight.

  • djmedi4

    as a long time fan of this band (more Bon than Brian, but…), the band should be happy that anyone wants to buy a new album (ahem, Rolling Stones).

    don’t f*&k around and do exclusives, espcially with Wal-Mart, with a long history of censorship and forcing artists to change artwork, etc. it only alienates and segments your audience. just put the product out on all platforms & outlets, and tour.

    If you wanna do an exclusive, do one with Amazon. Between hard copies and digital, they could have cleaned up.

    i’m actually stunned that they did 400K on BT alone. hope they read this article…

  • Captain Wrong

    @Chris N.: LOL. Thanks for putting more humorously (AC/DC hardly an album band) what I was thinking. I love AC/DC, but come on. That is a weak, weak argument coming from these guys.

  • T’Challa

    Yeah, the boys are more than a little out of touch with the times. But I can’t be mad at them for doing what they think is necessary to sell a new AC/DC album in 2008. Lord knows they’ll make enough scrilla on their upcoming U.S. tour. I’ll certainly be there. Meet me in the parking lot of the LA Forum–it’s gonna be craaaaaazy…

  • GhostOfDuane

    AC/DC didn’t even have a website until a few months ago. ACDC.com used to be a porn site. It’s not that they are resistant to the internet. They just have no clue what the internet is.

  • Anonymous


    Well the music would be pretty crappy, however sure some people would show up for it.

  • The New Rockstar Philosophy

    We all knew this would happen.

    What AC/DC should be focused on now is (as mentioned) get their album on Itunes immediately. The hardcore fans will still buy the physical copy and even the digital copy. The torrent copy will spread and most likely introduce a younger audience to AC/DC.

    Concentrating on merch and live show revenue is obvious.

    Change is tough I know, but it’s been around 10 years since Napster took off. Why can’t more established artists and the industry listen to the fans and adapt?


  • davidm

    @Maura Johnston: I drove out to WalMart last night (36 miles!) but alas they aren’t there. I’m fairly positive I didn’t imagine it, and the strip of Ne-Yo/NKOTB cds in the AC/DC standee further leads me to believe I’m not imaging it. But alas, no picture to be had of street date broken Black Ice. Sorry!