Heard AC/DC’s new Black Ice album yet? You don’t need to. It’s essentially the same riff, yowling vocal and lyrical content as they’ve been peddling for decades. Not that this is a bad thing.
But the band have left themselves open to accusations of being dinosaurs for more reasons than their attitude to women or Angus Young’s surely-mouldy school uniform. Get this: AC/DC hate iTunes. Fear it, even.
Why? Because they don’t want their albums to be sold ‘a la carte’ as individual 79p downloads – a view they share with Radiohead and Kid Rock, incidentally.
Frontman Brian Johnson explained recently, saying “Maybe I’m just being old-fashioned, but this iTunes, God bless ’em, it’s going to kill music if they’re not careful. It just worries me.”
Cor, rock dinosaurs, eh? Bet Brian can’t even work an iPod. Back In Black? Back in the Dark Ages, more like. Etc.
Yet here’s the weird thing: as a band, AC/DC (or their people) are actually quite digitally savvy, judging by Black Ice. They streamed the album for free on The Times’ website a week before launch, they’re planning YouTube virals, there’s an exclusive live album download for Rock Band in the works.
So what does all this prove? Well, it hints that some artists’ decision to shun iTunes has more substance than mere fear of technology. There are genuine – wait for it – principles at work here. Even if they’re misguided.
As a music fan, if bands want me to buy their whole album rather than cherry-pick a few tracks, they should stop putting shit tracks on their albums. The idea of the album as a listen-right-through unified musical experience (innit) is dead. We’re well into the age of skipping, shuffling and playlist creation, and those genies can’t be stuffed back in the bottle.
But the fact that an AC/DC can shun iTunes while at the same time palling up with other digital music services or sites is intriguing. Not least because it’ll encourage fans to try out these other ways to listen to music.
Steve Jobs won’t be losing sleep over picking a fight with some leathery old rockers, but AC/DC’s stance shows that even old dinosaurs aren’t averse to learning some new digital tricks if they have the desire (and, admittedly, some smart young dinosaurs working for them).