[UPDATE: Apparently, the AC/DC deal at Amazon was a pricing glitch that was never supposed to exist. It's enough to make you bang your head ... in frustration.]
For a long time, AC/DC was a holdout in terms of joining the digital age of music. The Aussie hard-rock band reluctantly joined iTunes only in 2012—with individual song downloads selling for $1.29 apiece and a complete set of albums and box sets available for $150. Today on iTunes, downloads of classic AC/DC albums like "Back in Black" sell for $6.99 each.
Amazingly, $6.99 just so happens to be the price of a special deal just made available at Amazon.com. A download of "AC/DC: The Complete Collection," which includes nearly 300 versions of songs from 27 of the band's albums, including "Highway to Hell," "Dirty Deeds Done Dirt Cheap," "Who Made Who," and yes, "Back in Black" (among the top 5 best-selling albums of all time) can be purchased right now for only $6.99. "Dirt cheap" indeed!
This special deal popped up surprisingly on Halloween, then disappeared, and now it has resurfaced again. It's unclear how long the monumental download will be available at the $6.99 price.
If it wasn't already clear that the music business has changed dramatically in recent years, the new AC/DC deal should hammer that point home like an epic drum solo. We live in an era when it makes sense for U2 to give an album away for "free" (and get grief for it), and when it's big news when a major artist like Taylor Swift decides that she no longer wants to (more or less) give her music away for free via streaming services such as Spotify.
If Swift and AC/DC have something in common—besides, you know, their mutual affection for wearing short shorts—it's their steadfast belief in the importance of the album rather than the single song. One reason that AC/DC was reluctant to start selling music digitally (and why it still doesn't make its music available for streaming services) is that the band believes the best way fans can enjoy its music is to listen to albums in their entirety, rather than hearing one song here and there.
"For us [the album is] the best way," AC/DC guitarist Angus Young told Sky News in 2010, soon after the Beatles finally allowed their music to be downloaded on iTunes. "We are a band who started off with albums and that’s how we’ve always been. We always were a band that if you heard something [by AC/DC] on the radio, well, that’s only three minutes. Usually the best tracks were on the albums."
Likewise, in a widely read Wall Street Journal op-ed last summer, Taylor Swift voiced strong opinions on the importance of the album in terms of musicians as both artists and businesspeople:
How will fans react in turn to the decisions by some major artists to not allow their music to be streamed? Will it help sell more albums? We'll have to wait and see. If selling 27 albums for $6.99 doesn't help boost a band's music sales in a big way, probably nothing will.