In addition to Wal-Mart’s Troy Steiner, Jeff Maas and Anderson Merchandisers, a number of partners joined with the label to provide an overall impact, including MTV, Sirius XM, Live Nation, ESPN and CBS.


Aussie Rockers First New Studio Effort In Eight Years Uses Wal-Mart Launch, Columbia Team to Achieve Worldwide Success
AC/DC’s Black Ice, the Aussie band’s first new studio album since 2000’s Stiff Upper Lip, debuted at #1 on the HITS sales chart three weeks ago, racking up 800k+ in sales for the second-highest bow of the year, next to Lil Wayne.

The Wal-Mart exclusive relied on an innovative sales, marketing, promotion, publicity and new media campaign that involved a maximum effort from band manager Alvin Handwerker along with Columbia Chairman Steve Barnett, whose team came together to execute the plan to perfection.

In addition to Wal-Mart’s Troy Steiner, Jeff Maas and Anderson Merchandisers, a number of partners joined with the label to provide an overall impact, including MTV, Sirius XM, Live Nation, ESPN and CBS.

The credit goes to Mark DiDia, marketing whiz Greg Linn, sales expert Tom Donnarumma, RMC International guru Robbie McIntosh, videogame maven Glenn Frese, publicity head Benny Tarantini, Scoop Marketing whiz Larry Solters (who brought his expertise from involvement in the Eagles deal), radio specialist Joe Guzik and online specialist Christian Schraga.

According to Linn, Wal-Mart, which purchased 2.5 million albums on a no-return basis, brought in its ad agency and marketing company to help with the rollout, going beyond the store level to directly target the consumer.

In addition to the 3,500 Wal-Mart outlets, the retail rollout included individual “pop-up” stores in high-visibility locations in Times Square and on Hollywood Blvd., featuring not only the Black Ice album but also merchandise (through Anthill Trading, which handles the band), music videos (including best-sellers No Bull, Family Jewels, Live at Donnington and Plug Me In) and the AC/DC Live Rock Band Track Pack for the MTV videogame, which came out last weekend. There were also mobile ice cream trucks that roamed the city selling AC/DC albums.

CAA’s Chris Dalston, along with Handwerker, strategized to announce the “Black Ice World Tour” in both North America and Europe prior to the album’s release. This move further ramped up anticipation for the album, as the tour set ticket sales records in a number of markets.

According to McIntosh, Black Ice debuted at #1 in a staggering 29 countries, with a total of 4.8m units shipped worldwide, part of the 10.2m units of the band’s entire catalog sold thus far this year. These sales were racked up without iTunes or any digital version of the album, as the band insisted on not breaking up the record.

With Tarantini fronting the publicity effort, the band scored covers on Rolling Stone (its first-ever appearance), N.Y. Times Arts & Leisure section and U.K.’s Q magazine.

AC/DC’s Hot 100 total radio audience for the “Rock N Roll Train” single is now at 11.2 million, topping the Mainstream and Classic Rock charts while rising to #2 at Active Rock. AC/DC is also the first act to get its own 24/7 channel on the merged Sirius XM, while the “Rock N Roll Train” video is Top 10 at VH1.

Schraga coordinated the group’s online campaign, which marketed directly to the group’s fan base, with promotions like “Dress Like Angus,” “Show Us Your AC/DC,” “Pimp Your Ride,” a user-generated video competition and a “Rock N Roll Caravan” contest encompassing six road trips from various points around the country to a special pre-tour rehearsal in Wilkes-Barre, PA. Meanwhile, ACDC.com, ACDCRocks.com, ADCDVan.com and the rest of their fan sites were collectively the #2 most-trafficked on the Web (next to the Jonas Brothers) on the week of the album’s release.

Under the direction of Columbia’s Frese and MTV Games’ Paul DeGoyer, the Rock Band II TV spot focused on the song “Let There Be Rock,” which showed young, hip fans of the group playing the game.

In the licensing area, DiDia was instrumental in getting the band on-air promos on ESPN, ABC College Football Saturday highlights and the CBS series Criminal Minds (both in promos for the program and on the show itself), with upcoming spots on Knight Rider (11/5) and CSI (11/20). In addition, the song “Spoiling for a Fight” aired Oct. 26 on World Wrestling Entertainment.

The Live Nation-promoted tour, which got underway Oct. 28 in Wilkes-Barre, runs through Jan. 31, with more than 500k tickets already sold. For an “All Aboard the Rock N Roll Train” promotion, the label flew in radio winners from around the country for a special rehearsal show on Oct. 26, two days prior to the tour’s opening night.

Lifestyle-wise, college reps nationwide have been enlisted to execute stenciling campaigns, while the music has been serviced to more than 300 sports teams, stadiums and arenas, as well as 2,500 gentlemen’s clubs and digital jukeboxes in clubs and bars across the country.

It may be a long way to the top if you want to rock & roll, but Columbia’s comprehensive plan to break AC/DC has done just that to produce one of the more remarkable returns in music biz history.

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