Brian Johnson (l) and Angus Young of AC/DC




AC/DC’s forthcoming album, Black Ice, won’t be available as a legal music download—or from any source other than retail giant Wal-Mart and the band’s own website.


A common idea about American society is that there is an inherent hostility between business people and culture types. The former are thought of as being socially conservative, the latter socially liberal; and the former are thought of as economically liberal (wanting freedom of opportunity) and the latter as indifferent or hostile to economic freedom.

But as I noted last week, this division is a fiction. The big difference is between the elites and the masses. Further confirmation of that observation is evident in the rock band AC/DC’s decision to prevent their forthcoming album Black Ice from being sold as downloads, instead allowing it to be sold only at Wal-Mart and the band’s proprietary website in CD form upon its release on October 20.

Known for three decades as fun-loving hellraisers, AC/DC has been seen by right-conservatives as a bad influence and by left-liberals as an ally in tearing down outmoded, traditional social conventions. The reality, however, is that the elites among both these groups are unabashed hedonists, and they work hand in hand to help themselves to the mass of productive people’s money.

Thus Reuters quotes AC/DC lead singer Brian Johnson as saying the decision to limit sales to CDs is being done for artistic reasons, to ensure that people hear the whole album and not just individual songs:

"Maybe I’m just being old-fashioned, but this iTunes, God bless ’em, it’s going to kill music if they’re not careful,"

Although that argument has a surface plausibility and is certainly true for some artists, AC/DC’s songs have never been weakened by being taken out of the context of the albums in which they’ve been included. In fact the better songs are usually strengthened by being heard without the much-weaker filler songs included in nearly all the band’s album releases.

Also contradicting Johnson’s claim is the fact that the band has always released its best songs as singles, as they are doing with the song "Rock’n Roll Train" from Black Ice, the album they allegedly want people to listen to in its entirety.

What is really going on here is that the band wants to continue to force customers to pay for the crummy filler songs they don’t want to hear. It has nothing to do with art.

Thus the seemingly odd pairing with Wal-Mart:

"A lot of people were saying ‘Ah man, you’re going to the big Wal-Mart, you’re selling out,’ Johnson said.

"Wal-Mart were the only big store to stock all of our albums, every single one of them, and they’ve never deviated. And they sold AC/DC shirts and pajamas for kids, which we thought was really cool," he said.

The reality is that Wal-Mart and AC/DC are not strange bedfellows at all. They’re both selling hedonism, with great skill and success—and making sure people pay the highest possible price for it.