Remember Rock Band’s “No Exclusive Deal” Policy?

Dan Gibson | September 30, 2008 12:00 pm

It seems like just a few months ago when we complimented Harmonix audio director Eric Brosious for his company’s stance against artist exclusive deals. Back in those halcyon days of August, Brosious said of the possibility of bands signing exclusive deals with Rock Band, “We prefer not to sign exclusive deals with artists because while it seems like the competitive ‘business’ thing to do, in the long run, it’s really not good for anyone. We think we should be working to get more music out to more people.” Well, August was a long time ago, and when Angus Young calls, you pick up the phone.

Apparently, artist-exclusive deals “aren’t good for anyone” when they’re being signed by your competitor, because guess who’s doing a deal with AC/DC and Wal-Mart?

MTV plans to announce on Tuesday that it has made a deal with the band and its label, Columbia Records, to create an AC/DC version of the channel’s popular Rock Band video game that will be sold in the United States only at Wal-Mart, Sam’s Club and the Wal-Mart Web site (

The release of the video game AC/DC Live: Rock Band Track Pack will give MTV a prominent role in the partnership between the rock group and the retailer to promote AC/DC’s forthcoming album, “Black Ice.” Wal-Mart will create a special area in each of its stores to display the new album and the new game, as well as the band’s other CDs, DVDs and T-shirts and other licensed clothing…

“If you want to be a physical band, you better make an alliance with a strong physical retailer,” said Steve Barnett, chairman of Columbia Records. “It’s a great way to sell the new album, the catalog, the game, merchandise and DVDs.” MTV and Wal-Mart are exploring the idea of setting up temporary shops to sell the game and the album in Manhattan and Los Angeles, where the retailer has no stores….

“They rock hard, and that still works for our audience,” said Van Toffler, the president of the MTV Networks’ Music and Logo Group. “It comes down to getting really great marketing, because Wal-Mart is so meaningful in terms of sales if they get behind something.”

I can only imagine how hip a temporary Wal-Mart location in Manhattan would be. Still, it’s a little disappointing to see the change in attitude over at Harmonix, although one might suspect–especially since the article fails to quote anyone from the company itself (including our pal Brosious)–that the decision might have been out of their hands. With the Guitar Hero franchise aggressively pursuing exclusive deals, it’s not hard to try to keep pace, especially when the act is as plastic guitar in the basement-worthy as AC/DC.

Wal-Mart Wins Deal on Album and Game [NYT]