I remember that with the rock band I played with in high school, one of the first songs we learned was the (new at the time) Highway to Hell by AC/DC. The following year AC/DC really exploded with their greatest album – Back In Black, with a load of classic rock songs that most people would recognize. It was a solid record with little ‘filler’, but AC/DC was really a singles rock band in an ‘AOR’ (album oriented rock) time.
Why do I mention this?
Because AC/DC has been a hold out in terms of getting their stuff digitally on iTunes … until last week. The big reason they cited was similar to Pink Floyd – the integrity of the album format and (of course) piracy. Well, it turns out that they were both right and wrong. Let’s look at the numbers first.
According to Billboard:
One of the longest hold-outs from iTunes, AC/DC, finally reached the digital retailer last week.
The iconic rock band’s entire catalog, along with two iTunes-exclusive box sets, became available on Monday, Nov. 19. In the week ending Nov. 25, the band’s 25 albums moved 48,000 downloads while its songs shifted 696,000 in the U.S. according to Nielsen SoundScan.
Its biggest selling album, digitally speaking, was the band’s classic “Back in Black,” with 15,000 — more than 10,000 ahead of its second-biggest title, “Highway to Hell” (a little under 5,000). Coming in third for the week was the brand new “Live at River Plate” (4,000), followed by “High Voltage” (just under 3,000) and “Dirty Deeds Done Dirt Cheap” (2,000).
In terms of song downloads, “Thunderstruck” led the way for AC/DC last week, selling 85,000. It debuts at No. 16 on Digital Songs and No. 1 on Hard Rock Digital Songs. On the latter tally — viewable on billboard.biz — the entire top 12 positions are owned by AC/DC tunes. The band’s second biggest seller last week was “Back in Black” (68,000), followed by “You Shook Me All Night Long” (64,000), “Highway To Hell” (50,000) and “TNT” (40,000). There were 14 AC/DC songs that sold at least 10,000 last week.
So, as you can see they had a very successful first week, which means that there were a lot of people looking to buy their music – as they certainly weren’t selling those numbers in physical formats last week! But at the same time, their single song sales greatly outpaced the album sales – as noted there were 14 songs that sold more than 10,000 copies!
So their fear that people would buy songs rather than albums was true. But as I said, 30+ years ago they were a singles band, certainly not some high-concept album-art outfit! Good for them for finally joining the digital mainstream, and I hope that the continued success of band after band will convince the few remaining misguided luddites to finally get their material to a place that people want it – and will actually PAY for it!