AC/DC debuts at No. 1, powered by CD sales

By Ben Sisario

One truism of the music business in the 21st century: AC/DC will sell a ton of albums, no matter the prevailing digital format.

“Power Up,” the Australian hard-rock heroes’ first LP in six years, has proved that correct once again, opening at No. 1 on the Billboard chart ahead of a new streaming hit by rappers Future and Lil Uzi Vert. “Power Up” had the equivalent of 117,000 sales in the United States, according to Nielsen Music, almost all of that number attributed to copies sold as a complete package — otherwise known as albums, a format that AC/DC has plenty of experience with, selling some 200 million around the world over the past 45 years, according to the band’s label, Columbia.

Selling old-fashioned LPs has indeed become more difficult in the digital age. That has been the conventional wisdom for years now, and AC/DC has happily done its own thing, collecting plenty of platinum along the way. The band refused to sell its albums on download stores like iTunes until 2012, and eschewed streaming until three years after that.

“Power Up” sold 111,000 full albums in its opening week. According to Billboard, 71,000 of those were CDs, while 23,000 were digital downloads and 16,000 were vinyl. For the $49 deluxe version of the CD, AC/DC took a page from Tool, the prog-metal band that made a surprise return to No. 1 last year: The album comes in a collectible box that displays AC/DC’s classic band logo in flashing neon, and plays the opening riff to its new song “Shot in the Dark” on a built-in speaker.

“Power Up” is the band’s 17th studio album, and the first since the death of its founding rhythm guitarist, Malcolm Young, in 2017 — though he and his brother Angus Young, the lead guitarist, are credited with writing all the songs. It is widely available on streaming services, but the album drew just 7.8 million clicks in its opening week, the lowest streaming number for a No. 1 title since Celine Dion’s “Courage,” which opened with 3.8 million a year ago.

Still, “Power Up” is only AC/DC’s third No. 1 album, after “For Those About to Rock (We Salute You)” from 1981 and “Black Ice” from 2008. Amazingly, the band’s 1980 megahit “Back in Black” — which has sold 25 million copies in the United States alone, according to the Recording Industry Association of America — peaked at No. 4 in the United States.

Also this week, Future and Lil Uzi Vert’s “Pluto x Baby Pluto” started at No. 2 with the equivalent of 105,000 sales, almost all from streaming (136 million clicks), with just 5,500 copies sold as a complete package.

Country singer-songwriter Chris Stapleton opened at No. 3 with “Starting Over,” while Ariana Grande’s “Positions,” the top seller for the past two weeks, fell to fourth place. Pop Smoke’s “Shoot for the Stars Aim for the Moon” is No. 5.

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