October 20, 2008

AC/DC Keeps Album From Digital Outlets

By Edna Gundersen

AC/DC's old-school philosophy doesn't stop with its bludgeoning, blues-based rock 'n' roll. Bucking trends since 1973, the Australian quintet remains a rare holdout in the digital marketplace by refusing to sell any of its music online.

That includes Black Ice, out today. Wal-Mart and Sam's Club have exclusive retail rights to the CD, priced at $11.88. Ice also is available at the chain websites and at acdc.com.

Guitarist Angus Young has always opposed selling albums piecemeal, likening it to carving a painting into sections to gaze at van Gogh's sky while missing the farmhouse.

The Wal-Mart deal, he says, "came down to availability. There aren't as many record stores these days, and Wal-Marts are all over America. New York and Los Angeles and Chicago may be covered, but in the heartland of America, Wal-Mart may be the only gig in town."

But if fans want to cherry-pick Black Ice for a customized playlist?

"We believe people still like to buy albums," says singer Brian Johnson. "These songs belong together. It's about five boys having a damn good time in a studio."

He's also concerned about the concentrated power of iTunes. "I get scared when one big monster rules music. Maybe I'm a bit daft and old-fashioned, but I see shades of George Orwell."

Limiting access to a big-box chain "is kind of a despicable trend," says Greg Kot, music critic for the Chicago Tribune. "Just in Chicago, AC/DC has sold a ton of records in mom-and-pop stores. To see them ousted out of the equation is disconcerting."

AC/DC did give indie record stores exclusive vinyl rights to Black Ice. The move followed reports that some indies imported inexpensive Black Ice CDs from South America.

Resisting the digital age hasn't hurt sales. The band's catalog sold 1.3 million copies in 2007, according to Nielsen SoundScan. (c) Copyright 2008 USA TODAY, a division of Gannett Co. Inc. <>