DES MOINES, Iowa—Veteran rock outfit AC/DC’s deal to sell its forthcoming album exclusively in Wal-Mart stores shouldn’t really alter the landscape of AC/DC album sales, according to a recent statistical analysis.
As the rock community braces for the Oct. 20 U.S. release of Black Ice, a Drake University study has revealed that AC/DC might have unnecessarily entered into an exclusivity deal with retail behemoth Wal-Mart, given that 96.8 percent of the band’s discs sold in the United States since 1990 were purchased in a Wal-Mart or Sam’s Club store.
“This is like if Fall Out Boy decided to sell its licensed T-shirts exclusively at Hot Topic—to the fans, it would be business as usual,” said Stephen J. Danssler, associate professor of communication studies at Drake and lead author of the AC/DC research findings, which were published in the September issue of Kerrang! magazine. “I guess it’s nice to have a deal in writing, but AC/DC and Wally World have long been partners in the distribution of formulaic, redundant, mind-numbing butt rock.”
Indeed, the numbers found in the Drake study are staggering. Danssler’s report notes that Back in Black, an album that has seen sales topping 22 million in the United States, moved 94.3 percent of its post–1990 American sales through the warehouses and supercenters of Sam’s and Wal-Mart. Another 3.7 percent was sold at Midwestern Pamida stores; the remaining 2 percent was attributed to sales at the Iowa 80 truck stop just west of the Quad Cities.
“You can buy a lot of shit [at Iowa 80],” Danssler said. “Including AC/DC albums.”
More recent releases, such as 1990’s The Razors [sic] Edge, 1995’s Ballbreaker, and 2000’s Stiff Upper Lip saw even greater sales numbers at Wal-Mart locations as Pamida vanished from the “rube retail” realm. In fact, according to Danssler’s figures, Stiff Upper Lip logged 99.2 percent of its sales from Wal-Mart/Sam’s Club; the remaining discs were sold at a Ben Franklin five-and-dime store in Cobblers Point, Wis., while that town’s Wal-Mart was closed for seven days following an immigration raid.
Danssler was asked about a couple of common factors that have eroded album sales in America’s typical brick-and-mortar shops: secondhand CD sales at used CD stores, and digital outlets such as iTunes Music Store.
“Let me address the first point, the used-CD stores,” Danssler said. “This has definitely hurt some bands in recent years. Frankly, if someone needs a copy of Motley Crue’s Decade of Decadence, that person can go to any Disc-Go-Round or Revitalized Vinyl and snag it for pennies.
“But when the ‘DC sells an album, most likely to a Wal-Mart patron, rest assured that that disc would never be resold, not even to the devil.”
On the topic of digital sales, Danssler snickered and said, “AC/DC fans don’t own computers.”
In a show of multidisciplinary cooperation, marketing faculty from Drake’s business school also contributed to the study, showing the untapped benefits Wal-Mart could gain from an official partnership with AC/DC.
“Wal-Mart’s shitty Dr. Pepper knockoff soda is called Dr. Thunder,” said Sam Gianno, faculty chair of Drake’s marketing department, during a phone interview to discuss his contribution to the study. “Now close your eyes for a second. Picture some mullet-headed stud, or perhaps a sweaty broad in a bikini, downing a big glass of brown fizzy refreshment.
“As the drinker continues to chug, you start to hear a guitar lick getting louder and louder. Suddenly a chant begins: THUNDER! NA-NA-NA-NA NA-NA-NA-NA! THUNDER! That’s right, ‘Thunderstruck’ teams up with Dr. Thunder.”
After letting out a bemused chuckle, Gianno adds, “If a 67-cent price tag can’t sell a 2-liter of that swill, I’m betting AC/DC can.”
John Mundt, Esq., contributed to this report.