BLOG: Should AC/DC be on iTunes?

A classic is a classic, even on iTunes
A classic is a classic, even on iTunes

Since its introduction in 2003, iTunes has sold more than five billion songs - and not one of them from AC/DC.

Which is just fine with that band's lead guitarist Angus Young, who, along with the group, refuses to let albums such as Back In Black or Highway To Hell be sold on the music service on the grounds that they are complete artistic statements and not simply a collection of songs to be cherry-picked at will.

In an interview with Telegraph,, Young asserted that because iTunes doesn't "lock" albums (preventing users from downloading anything but the complete record), AC/DC will not only continue their boycott of the service, but they'll do everything they can to spread the gospel.

Young makes his case

"We don't make singles, we make albums," Young said. "Way back in the '70s, we drew these figures on the back of an envelope for our record company. We showed them how much they earned from us if we sold one million singles and how much they earned if we sold one million albums. The difference was staggering.

"That was to get them off our back because we only very grudgingly release singles. Our real reason is that we honestly believe the songs on any of our albums belong together. If we were on iTunes, we know a certain percentage of people would only download two or three songs from the album - and we don't think that represents us musically."

"If we were on iTunes, we know a certain percentage of people would only download two or three songs from the album" - Angus Young

Young also asserts that since iTunes came into existence, the band's back catalogue sales have increased. "We were sternly warned by our management team and our record label that the complete opposite would be the case."

To that end, the band are following the example of The Eagles and are issuing their next album, Black Ice, exclusively in the US through the retail giant Wal-Mart. (It'll also be available online, on services such as Amazon and Barnes & Noble; and in Europe it'll be available at most music retailers.) In the band's view, this is in keeping with their artistic standards, and also, why mess with a good thing? If AC/DC fans purchse the group's CDs at music stores and online sites such as Amazon, there is little reason to change a winning forumla.

Could AC/DC be missing out?

Angus Young presents sound logic and even seems to have the figures to back it up. Still, as a longtime, rabid fan of the group, I'm on the mind that the band should rethink their position.

A study of my CD collection reveals that I own every AC/DC except Fly On The Wall (don't ask me why I didn't buy this title; I just didn't). And I was more than happy to trot on down to the record - er, CD - store and purchase each and every copy. (Granted, some of them were replacements for worn-out vinyl copies, which means I bought the same album twice. Ka-ching!)

However, it is also true that in the past two years I have loaded all of these CDs onto my iPod and assembled my own steller AC/DC playlist. "Joe's Awesome AC/DC Party" I call it, and it kicks a kangaroo's ass. Gone are tracks such as Mistress For Christmas (The Razor's Edge), Guns For Hire (Flick Of The Switch) and about a dozen or so more. No offense, guys - I love pretty much everything you do, and most it it with a passion that is downright scary.

But I have to say, if you presented your stunning oeuvre on iTunes, spruced up and remastered, with never-before-heard tracks and the like, I'm sure I'd be sending my credit card into maximum overdrive. And I bet millions of like-minded music fans would do the same.

Classic will always sell - that's why they're classics

Would masterpieces such as Highway To Hell and Back In Black (and your brilliant new record Black Ice) sell in their unexpurgated form? Of course.These are must-haves, must-owns, go-to records that have magical charms. But if a fans by the score download Hard As A Rock, the one real gem off of 1995's Ballbreaker, and leave the rest alone, c'mon, are you really really losing out? Will you not be able to add on those addition to your mansions? Please.

AC/DC, you can still join the club and remain in a league of your own. You've already made the music, now let the fans have at it - in all ways possible.

Joe Bosso

Joe is a freelance journalist who has, over the past few decades, interviewed hundreds of guitarists for Guitar WorldGuitar PlayerMusicRadar and Classic Rock. He is also a former editor of Guitar World, contributing writer for Guitar Aficionado and VP of A&R for Island Records. He’s an enthusiastic guitarist, but he’s nowhere near the likes of the people he interviews. Surprisingly, his skills are more suited to the drums. If you need a drummer for your Beatles tribute band, look him up.