AC/DC sold nearly 800,000 albums last week, exclusively through Wal-Mart, giving them the second-best release of the year. (Take that, Coldplay and your iTunes-centric strategy!) The group’s success, on the heels of The Eagles’ similar Wal-Mart triumph and a month before Guns N’ Roses tests fans appetite for Chinese Democracy by releasing its long-awaited album exclusively through Best Buy, suggests that store exclusives may be key to saving the music industry from declining sales.
But, ironically, The Guardian claims that AC/DC’s success really just illustrates how bad things have gotten financially. We went down this road with Paris Hilton, but is AC/DC the real harbinger of financial doom? Or is their music just an oasis of calm in a world full of chaos?
The Guardian: First Gordon Brown and Mervyn King, the Bank of England’s governor, admitted that Britain was on the verge of recession. Then food sales were reported to have seen their biggest fall for 20 years. Last night came final and irrevocable proof that the country is entering tough economic times, unseen since the 80s: AC/DC have returned to the top of the album charts for the first time in 28 years.
Even by the standards of a band whose commercial success is a given – the venerable Australian rockers have shifted more than 80m records since forming 35 years ago (in the midst of the 1973 oil crisis) – the circumstances of their 16th studio album’s British success seem striking…
Those keen to draw wider inferences from its success might note that the last time AC/DC made No 1 in Britain, the country was on the brink of recession. Back In Black, the album that marked their commercial breakthrough and went on to become the second biggest-selling of all time, was released in 1980, just as inflation had reached 20% and unemployment inched towards 2 million.
When the economy recovered, AC/DC’s popularity receded, albeit becoming merely immense instead of phenomenal: their “flop” 1985 album, Fly On The Wall, still sold more than 1m copies, a not unimpressive figure, but a fraction of Back In Black’s 30m sales or the 5m copies that Black Ice sold in the last seven days.
But right on cue the album that returned the band to its heyday was The Razors Edge, released in 1990 – just as Britain headed towards its last recession.
AC/DC’s appeal in unpredictable times is straightforward. People crave something uncomplicated and dependable in a time of uncertainty, and rock music has never produced a band so uncomplicated and dependable as AC/DC.
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