With Beatles now on iTunes, who are the last holdouts—and why?

garth-brooks-kid-rockImage Credit: Janet Mayer/PR Photos; Solarpix/PR PhotosMetallica were the first to cave, in mid-2006. In November of 2007, Led Zeppelin followed; in June 2008, Radiohead finally said OK, computer. And yesterday, of course, was the day the Beatles pledged “I Will” to iTunes.

But there are, famously, a few very firm holdouts–artists who refuse to parcel their music for the digital marketplace. Below, the main players, and the reasons they’ve given:

AC/DC: Two years ago, Angus Young explained to the New York Times that they could not abide breaking up their albums for individual track sales: “It’s like an artist who does a painting. If he thinks it’s a great piece of work, he protects it. It’s the same thing: this is our work.”
That same month, frontman Brian Johnson told Reuters, “”Maybe I’m just being old-fashioned, but this iTunes, God bless ‘em, it’s going to kill music if they’re not careful … 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. Let’s put it this way, it’s certainly not for the…love, let’s get that out of the way, right away.” (Walmart, however, is all about the love.)

Garth Brooks: Last year, the semi-retired country superstar told writer Lisa L. Rollins,  These [Apple] guys are sweet guys, but they’re businessmen, so they understand. … They truly think that they’re saving music. My hat’s off to them. I looked at them right across the table with all the love in the world and told them they were killing it. And until we get variable pricing, until we get album-only [downloads], then they are not a true retailer for my stuff, and you won’t see my stuff on there—with all the love in the world. That’s nothing that they haven’t heard, either.”

Kid Rock: In a 2008 EW feature, he said ”I just don’t like being told what to do. I don’t have a beef with Apple, or iTunes, or any of them. I do have a beef with that it seems kind of socialist of them to charge the same price for every song. What if every car cost $4,000, you know what I mean? A song from my neighbor’s garage band is not the same value as Bruce Springsteen’s ‘Born to Run.’ I just want to decide how my product gets sold with the people who sell it.” (Kid’s rep confirmed to us today that his views have not changed.)

Also still unavailable: The Smiths (aside from their greatest hits, and a few soundtrack one-offs), ToolDef Leppard, Bob Seger, and the bulk of the Black Sabbath and Frank Zappa catalogs. (iTunes declined to comment for this article.)

Tell us, readers—are these artists hurt by their absence, or is their integrity worth its weight in iBucks? Is the notion of that integrity misplaced? And are fans genuinely affected by the lack of digital availability, or is uploading physical discs into an online library merely a brief chore for a rainy day? Let us know in the comments section below.

(Follow the Music Mix on Twitter: @EWMusicMix.)

More from EW.com:
Apple finally gets rights to Beatles catalog on iTunes
Band of Horses’ biker-themed ‘Dilly’ video: Watch it

Comments (138 total) Add your comment
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  • matt

    There Are album only downloads on amazon and iTunes. It won’t be long before all music is digitally available.

    • JD

      It’s about time, not that the Beatles/heirs need the money. I mean if they wait any longer there will be fewer and fewer peope out there that actually pay for music. They really missed out on a lot of cash.

    • jared

      I think what they mean by “Album Only” is you must buy the ENTIRE album or nothing at all – not the cuts that are only available if you purchase the rest of the album. Emusic does this and there seem to be no issues.

    • Katy Perry

      These guys are liars. It *is* all about the money. These guys have negotiated a bigger piece of the profits from album sales, so they don’t get as much profit from individual song sales. Kid Rock arguing against flat rate pricing means he’d charge *more* for a popular song, not less for a more obscure one. iTunes isn’t killing music, it’s killed the album and changed the music industry. It’s made it more egalitarian for the budding garage band and taken some of the power away from the entrenched artists who’ve bought into the dinosaur industry.

      • Chris

        Damn. I agree with Katy Perry.

  • Cat

    I wish Apple would just placate Garth and do album only sales for his music. I’d buy that stuff! CD’s are annoying.

    • Jason S.

      Just to let you know CD’s have Wayyyyyyyyyyyy better sound quality then digital downloads. I will never buy digital downloads until they are all CD quality. Then I can compress them for my Ipod if I want but I still have an uncompressed file. Til then stick with CD’s.

      • Mindy

        I too only buy entire albums in cd form because of the sound quality. I will only start digitally downloading albums when they are of CD quality.

      • LOL

        I agree with Jason and Mindy. Not to be an a**, but the word is “than.”

      • mary q contrary

        LOL, you can preface it any way you want, but nitpicking tiny mistakes like that makes you an a**. And a troll. And a Melvin.

      • Flip

        Totally agree.

      • jared4ever

        Totally agree. People who have nothing better to do than nitpick other people’s grammar need to get laid.

      • jkw

        So, people who obsess over grammar turn you on, jared4ever?

      • jared4ever

        You’re an idiot.

      • Michael

        I also avoided downloaded iTunes files for sound qualtiy issues (128kbps); however; all files for the past few years are now ACC (beter than MP3) at 256kbps – the same rate I would encode a CD when importing into iTunes. Yes – in a studio setting, with the original master files to compare to, one might still hear a difference, but at 256kbps, and for the ease having your favorite music in you pocket all the time, the sound issue quality is now moot.

      • Katy Perry

        Every hear of ACC? Variable bit rate? CDs are already compressed for that format. You have to go to LP or true masters for uncompressed audio.

      • Throck

        I took three of my friends making over $100k a year in various sound studios that were complaining digital quality vs CD quality isn’t there. and put them my $125,000 THX Certified media room and challenged them to tell me which of 10 songs were Digital and which were CDs…they failed miserably.

        If you have a sample set to try that you would like to put forth I’ll gladly challenge them again over the holidays when they are here.

        My personal feeling is the myth is busted on CDs being of better quality, Now you can get lower kbps downloads, but that’s a preference these days.

        P.S. Hope my grammar works for everyone :)

  • wakeforce

    There are many artists’ greatest hits that are unavailable on Itunes. Apple still doesn’t carry many compilation albums that were advertised on tv. Pure Reggae, Pure Jazz,etc.

    • stickittotheman

      So true – iTunes does not carry everything, just the mainstream acts. Where is Curve?

  • Mark

    Kid Rock is totally right. I couldn’t imagine anyone paying 1.29 for his crap. Down with socialism?

    • AK

      Only Kid Rock could somehow make his problem with iTunes be an issue of socialism. Seriously?! Marx is probably rolling over in his grave at the thought.

    • Lizbit

      The fact that he thinks his music is worth more than others is astounding to me. Everyone puts the same love and attention into their albums the songs are only worth as much as people are willing to pay. Get over it, Kid.

      • ttete

        Most albums start off at the same price anyway so I have no idea where he gets this idea from.

    • Roy

      +1 for Mark. Well done, sir. You just made me spit out my coffee.

  • Funback Joe

    It’s unfortunate that many of these bands are just becoming catalysts to their own obsolescence. None of these hold-outs have been particularly relevant in the last decade. Does Kid Rock think his music would actually sell for MORE than 99 cents a track? Ba-diddy-ba-da-dang-di-don’t think so.

    • BobRitchie

      27 million albums sold says something different.

      • mary q contrary

        How many of those 27 million albums were sold in the last 5 years?


        If I want Kid Rock’s music I’ll find it. I don’t want to live in a world where iTunes is my only source and that’s a danger. That imposes one big filter over what’s available to me. That’s not to say I haven’t soent my share there but I want to keep my options open.

      • Aaron

        His last album Rock & Roll Jesus released in 2007 has sold over 5 million copies. In 2008 it was the 45th most sold album of the year. Not bad I’d say.

    • stickittotheman

      Hey, where did Kid Rock say he wanted to charge MORE? I think is point is that older songs from obscure artists should cost less than big, well-produced, quality tracks. It is still a free country, so Kid should be free to say no to the corporate monster!

    • Mathieu

      AC/DC’s last studio album was number one in practically every country and they just set some sort of record for highest grossing live act for their latest tour, I think. They’re not too worried about ‘obsolescence’ or too short of cash. Personally, I mainly only buy albums on CD as its usually cheaper than downloading and you get a physical copy. If there’s only one or two tracks I’m interested in, or maybe digital exclusives, then I download. The thought of a download-only future depresses the hell out of me, though.

      • ricardo

        AC/DC’s Black Ice ….sold near 7 million so far…2nd best selling album (cd) of 2008…need I say more?

      • Mara

        And it was a Walmart exclusive I think!

    • DN

      Kid Rock made an idiotic statement. He said all artists’ work should not be sold at the same price. Do his CDs sell at a higher price than other CDs? No. Music in stores are sold at the same prices, too — unless they are discounted for being new releases. Beside, iTunes now sells both albums and singles at different prices, the same variation one would find in stores. I could care less if Kid Rock’s catalogue is available, though.

  • Mike

    I love how Kid Rock of all people has standards for his music. We’re all being deprived of Kid Rock’s songs on iTunes. :P

  • jodipo

    Their arguments are spurious, especially Kid Rock. You should pay different amounts? Does he refuse to sell CD’s too?

    • stickittotheman

      Dude, you mean iTunes should charge the same price for the latest Lady Gaga as for the obscure b-track off the debut album of a Canadian prairie band like The Northern Pikes? That is digital robbery.


        I’d be encouraged to support more new artists if there was a discount. I’ve got to stick to my budget and that doesn’t leave much wiggle room to experiment.

  • PeterBilt

    Big Daddy Kane.

  • Ty Dietzler

    I think Tool is doing just fine.

    • Rolo Tomasi

      I think they all are. If you are a fan of the bands, you most likely already have their CDs

  • David

    Specious arguments from the artists, at best, especially AC/DC (who I love, by the way). It’s not about protecting your piece of work, it’s your perceived bottom line, be honest about it.

    That said, all these holdouts are also relics. Does AC/DC really think they need to seel more physical copies of Back in Black to protect its legacy? Really Garth Brooks, I have to buy the whole, dull No Fences CD to own Friends in Low Places, one of truly a very few standout hits from your career? Lame.

  • Nicole

    I really doubt iTunes will be the downfall of music. It’s just changing… like everything else. It’s their music they should do what they like, but it does make them seem old-fashioned.

  • aoystreck

    id Rock, like most Americans it seems, needs to learn the definition of socialism. A for-profit online music store throwing its market share behind a sales strategy that maximizes its profitability isn’t socialist, it’s fundamentally capitalist. Retail stores determine their own prices for CDs, why should iTunes not have the same power? (this coming from a guy who owns an iPod but nonetheless thoroughly disdains Apple products)

    • Rich

      Retail stores can charge what they want, but when a CD costs $11-12 from the distributor, you can’t sell it for $9.99 for too long before you’re out of business. When companies like Amazon and iTunes sell brand-new albums as downloads for $3.99, it tends to throw the entire structure out of whack. And if you want to know why music is “devalued” these days, that’s a big part.

      At the rate “Back In Black” continues to sell, AC/DC makes more $ off CD sales for 6 months than they would selling on iTunes for 10 years. And good for them!

      Garth, of course, thought used CDs would be the death of music back in the ’90s. Ironic since his whole back catalog can now be found used at any halfway-decent record store… for about the same price you’d pay for two iTunes downloads….

      • Jake

        I want to know what brand new album you’ve bought off iTunes that only cost you $3.99. Prices have steadily risen on iTunes. The fact of the matter is, if you’ve got something good to sell, then people will buy it. The days of big-selling, million-moving CD sales are over.

      • Mara

        @Jake Amazon does the $3.99 albums. Theyve released at least four brand new albums this month at that price. But Itunes would never do that!

  • SpeedKills

    okay so… I can chuck $1.29 or $.99 down for the one song I actually want from these artists on iTunes or I can find the whole album somewhere else for much less than that. now imagine the other millions of people that say that and calculate how much money you’re actually losing because you’re greedy.

  • DK

    If they are so confident their whole entire CD is a work of art then put it on itunes and let the entire album sell itself.

    They won’t because they know the truth. Scatter your hits across multiple albums and have people pay $12 for each one.

  • Zebulon

    Those who hold out will miss out. Without the option for digital download I think many people would be more inclined to borrow and rip the best songs from a friend’s CD than buy a CD for themselves.

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