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AC/DC Gives in to iTunes. Will Other Holdouts Follow?

AC/DC has been saluting those about to rock for decades, but until now that salute did not include those that choose to do their rocking on iTunes. The legendary Australian rock band was one of the last remaining superstar holdouts to Apple’s digital music service, opting not to make their music available on the service.

But now all of the group’s albums, live albums, box sets and EPs are available in the iTunes store, and all have been mastered for iTunes in DRM-free, 256 kbps AAC form. For those that want all of the band’s studio work, they can opt for “The Collection,” which includes all of the group’s studio albums. For completists, there’s also “The Complete Collection,” which adds live albums and box sets to the studio albums. Albums included, of course, are rock classics like Back in Black, Dirty Deeds Done Dirt Cheap, Highway to Hell and For Those About to Rock We Salute You.

The iTunes release coincides with the release of Live at River Plate, which is the first AC/DC live album in 20 years. The release also marks a major turning point for the band, who have been longtime skeptics (if not critics) of the digital music industry.

“Maybe I’m just being old-fashioned, but this iTunes, God bless ‘em, its going to kill music if they’re not careful,” singer Brian Johnson told Reuters back in 2008. “It’s a… monster, this thing. It just worries me. And I’m sure they’re just doing it all in the interest of making as much… cash as possible.”

Guitarist Angus Young had a more specific gripe in a different 2008 interview, condemning the iTunes practice of selling individual songs instead of complete albums.

“It’s like an artist who does a painting,” he told the New York Times. “If he thinks it’s a great piece of work, he protects it. It’s the same thing: This is our work.”

It should be noted, however, that the group still hasn’t completely given in to the new digital industry – its songs are nowhere to be found on streaming service Spotify.

The band is just the next in a line of early iTunes hold-outs that finally made their music available on the service. The Beatles are probably the best known example, finally releasing their music on the service in 2010. Kid Rock is also one of the most recent artists to relent, and his newest album, Rebel Soul, was released on the service, though his back catalog still is not available on iTunes.

“As a musician, you want the music in as many hands as you can get it into,” Rock told Billboard. “More importantly, I want people to get the music for the fairest price, and in the most convenient way. And that’s really turned into iTunes when you’re talking about selling albums.”

So what artists are still shunning iTunes? Not many.

Garth Brooks is the biggest name, and there are a few others including Tool and Def Leppard. An AP story quotes Billboard director of charts Silvio Pietroluongo as saying that the importance of releasing to iTunes depends on the artist.

“It’s something that I think artists realize they need to do in order to get their music into the hands of their fans and to make more money,” he said. “Right now with CD sales being what they are, touring is the main source of income and not every band is equipped to be out on tour 200 days a year to make the kind of money they need to make, or want to make.”

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