Musical acts not on iTunes

Sun, Feb 14, 2010

Featured, News

With the iTunes Music Store approaching its 10 Billionth download, we thought it’d be a good time to go back and take a look at some of the high profile musical acts who still refuse, for one reason or another, to make their musical libraries available on iTunes.

Now everyone knows that the most high profile group missing from iTunes is The Beatles, and rumors of their impending arrival on iTunes have been going on for years now.

But they’re not alone.

Chief among the iTunes draft dodgers is the Australian heavy metal group AC/DC whose album “Back in Black” has sold over 49 million copies, making it the second most purchased album in history behind Michael Jacskon’s Thriller.  AC/DC have been quite outspoken about their anti-iTunes stance, and for them, it all boils down to the fact that they look at their albums as works of art that shouldn’t be split up and sold 1/12 at a time, as iTunes requires.  In an interview with the Guardian last year, AC/DC guitarist Angus Young (you know, the dude who dresses up as a schoolboy) opined on why the group not only avoids iTunes, but is reluctant to put out singles in any sort of format.

“We don’t make singles, we make albums,” Young said, “Way back in the Seventies, we drew these figures on the back of  an envelope for our record company. We showed them how much they earned from us if we sold one million singles and how much they earned if we sold one million albums.  The difference is staggering.”

Angus continued, “That was to get them off our back because we only very grudgingly release singles. Our real reason is that we honestly believe the songs on any of our albums belong together.  If we were on iTunes, we know a certain percentage of people would only download two or three songs from the album – and we don’t think that represents us musically.”

Fair enough, and though you might disagree with their position, you’ve got to at least respect their artistic integrity and refusal to bow down to the mighty dollar.  And as a matter of fact, the group has never licensed their music to appear in any form of advertising as well. Meanwhile, and as a piece of musical trivia, Moby’s album Play was the first album to have each and every one of its songs appear in a commercial.

Moving along, another big name act with little to no representation on iTunes is Detroit based country/rap/rock artist Kid Rock, who has also been quite vocal in his opposition to the iTunes business model.  Rock has argued, and it makes sense, that because selling songs on iTunes requires no added costs such as packaging or distribution, the royalties artists receive should be substantially higher.  A valid point, though the problem Rock mentions probably has more to do with historically greedy record labels and outdated boilerplate contracts than anything else.  To Rock’s credit, he doesn’t make any bones about his albums being pieces of art, and is upfront about the monetary reasons behind his reluctance to hop on the iTunes bandwagon.

Also noticeably absent from iTunes is the heavy metal group Tool who also happen to look at their albums as standalone entities that need to be listened to in their entirety.  And with 8-minute plus songs that seamlessly move from track to track and “flow one into the next”, we can definitely see where they’re coming from. Sort of.

But over the past few years, a number of famous artists who initially stood firmly on the iTunes sidelines decided to hop on board, such as Metallica, Led Zeppelin, and Dave Matthews. But one artist keeping it real, so to speak, is Jay-Z, whose album “American Gangster (inspired by the film of the same name) was pulled from iTunes in light of Jiggaman’s refusal to sell each track as an individual download. Explaining his decision, Jay-Z said, “As movies are not sold scene by scene, this collection will not be sold as individual singles.”


, ,

5 Comments For This Post

  1. Jim Main Says:

    Where is the real Frank Zappa (and not the bootlegs)?

  2. King of Music Says:

    Who the hell wants crappy AC/DC, jayzee, or kid rock CRAP anyway? The Beatles, yea, but the other stuff? No one’s gonna miss it. Get over yourselves…

  3. Rennie Says:

    “[AC/DC] has never licensed their music to appear in any form of advertising as well”.

    And AC/DC licensed the song Back In Black for a Gap ad starring Audrey Hepburn. Check out

    I get the concern, but I remember only being able to buy a Chuck Mangione’s album in it’s entirety on iTunes because it was the only way to get “Feels So Good”. Why can’t AC/DC do that?

    I wonder if the iTunes LP format will change the stance?

  4. marv08 Says:

    Much ado about nothing. There are several albums on iTunes which can only be bought as a whole… e.g. Jazz albums containing only songs longer than 7 minutes and some special editions.

    @Jim Main: Frank Zappa’s widow pulled his original works from electronic distribution, because of a negative statement FZ once made about the quality of downloads. When he died, the average downloads had the quality of digital answering machines (sounding like ringtones from the early 90s)… Maybe somebody should explain to her, that downloads today have better quality than what the majority of affordable stereo systems can reproduce… There is a lot of his stuff I would like to re-buy, because my original LPs and CDs are about done. But I won’t buy any physical media…

  5. skips Says:

    I have two observations about the claim that an artist or group makes albums to be heard as albums only:

    1. If this claim is true, you should never hear any of their songs on the radio. (which is patently false for at least two of the groups that were mentioned.)

    2. If they really do make albums that sound better than the individual tracks, it would not matter if the individual tracks were offered for sale. People would buy the album because it sounded better.

    My conclusion from these two observations is that the claims of these artists are completely hokey. I believe that the recording industry makes more money off traditional albums, due to the additional costs to produce and distribute singles. However, in the era of electronic distribution there are no additional costs as the distributor picks up the cost of packaging and distributing the product.

    On the other hand, it is clear that many artists have long term contracts with the recording studios that are not favorable to them when it comes to electronic distribution of their works. For these artists, there is no downside to avoiding electronic distribution of their works through their recording studio. As we move forward, I expect that it will become harder for the recording industry to continue to get these contracts from new artists. Hopefully this trend will mean more and better music will be available to those who enjoy listening to music and better remuneration to the artists who record these works.

eXTReMe Tracker