Earlier today I saw the press release with details on the new AC/DC album, Black Ice and one part of it immediately jumped out at me:
’Black Ice’ will be sold in the U.S. exclusively at Wal-Mart and Sam’s Club retail locations at the special price of $11.88.
$11.88? Seriously? Back when AC/DC made the announcement that the album would be sold exclusively through Wal-Mart, many people criticized them, but I chose not to. I didn’t see the point, because as much as I may hate what Wal-Mart stands for, it makes business sense. Exclusives sell better…plain and simple. Would anyone imagine that Journey would have a Gold record without Steve Perry? They do now and it’s all because of an exclusive deal with Wal-Mart. However, where Journey and the Eagles succeeded, (led by Irving Azoff), AC/DC may fail. You see, what made the Journey and Eagles discs so revolutionary is that you got great bang for your buck. The Eagles disc contained 28-songs for $11.88. The Journey package included 2 CD’s and a live DVD, at that point it was so cheap (less than $4 a disc) that it’s not worth stealing as the blank media you would buy may cost almost as much.
Now, this AC/DC album is unique as that their record label Columbia is bartering this deal in partnership with AC/DC, a first for the major labels. Surprise, surprise, it’s the most expensive exclusive so far and there does not appear to be any added incentives to buying the disc. Why? When I heard about this deal, I was expecting the album to sell somewhere between $6 and $8, as it would be a price point figure where Wal-Mart would potentially lose money on it, but use it as a draw to lure people into their stores. The price point of $11.88 is basically asking people to download the album illegally. A number of years ago I basically stopped buying discs that were more than $10 unless there was bonus feature (concert DVD, bonus disc, etc.) attached to it. I found it down the line used and I still stand by that stance today. One thing the music industry has continued to not grasp hold of is that people want to buy music, but only if it’s priced reasonably. In a day and age where I can open the Sunday circulars and see recent DVD’s priced as low as $3.99 and in the same ad, classic album’s from AC/DC, Metallica and Led Zeppelin are selling for $11.99, you see why DVD’s have thrived in the last decade and CD sales have dwindled. It’s no wonder this industry is failing, these CD’s could be bought for $11.99 back in 1989. While the film industry (which has its fair share of problems as well) has smartly continued to reduce the price of their product in hopes it will increase sales, the music industry has done the opposite. You would think that after eight straight years of declining sales, they would start to embrace a cheaper model in hopes of selling more product. Why not make all catalog albums $5? Why isn’t every album download available for $5.99 and less, there’s no cost in packing? As Garth Brooks, the Eagles and Journey have proven, people do not mind paying for their music, but it has to have value. This AC/DC release doesn’t have value. Bryan Adams released his latest disc via Wal-Mart for $10 with no added features and well, you haven’t seen any articles about the sales of that disc have you? What makes the Journey disc fascinating is that this is a band viewed as a “has-been” by most people and their newest disc has scanned nearly 500,000 copies. They offered great bang for the buck!
The industry is being spun on their head and it’s one thing to not want to sign up with iTunes (as Kid Rock is proving that you don’t need to be on it to have a album that sells well), however, you have to throw your fans a bone, which AC/DC isn’t doing here. What it will boil down to is that Black Ice will sell well, but not as well as if it was priced at $6. Which is a shame as any AC/DC is worth hearing and should be in your collection. But with no iTunes release, a $13 price tag (the final price after tax) and no bonus features, they are practically begging people to steal their music and ultimately, far more people will download it illegally than will ever buy it. My question to AC/DC and Columbia is would you rather sell 5-6 million copies priced at $6 or 1-2 million priced at $12? As Radiohead proved last year, making new music is not about how much money can be gained from the sales, but by whether or not people have the music, listen to it and know it.
PLease allow me some time to upload the AC/DC I have and I will make it available soon. Not because I am so angry - because we have all bought this music in many formats before.