"The globe's celebrating their return": Columbia's Jenifer Mallory on AC/DC supercharged comeback

Today (November 13) marks the comeback of one of the biggest bands of all time. AC/DC – who recently appeared on the cover of Music Week – have just released their incredible new album Power Up, a record that marks the triumphant return of the rock giants after a troubled period which has included tragedy, as well as members leaving due to health and legal reasons.  

Power Up is a tribute to AC/DC’s late rhythm guitarist Malcolm Young, who retired from the group in mid-2014 as he continued to suffer from dementia. He passed away in 2017. The record, however, features a host of unused riffs and song ideas he and his brother, AC/DC’s lead guitarist Angus Young, worked on around the time of their blockbuster 2008 album Black Ice.

“There was so, so much stuff that we had at that time,” Angus Young recently told Music Week. “What went on Black Ice was just really the beginning of what we had. Malcolm kept saying to me all the time, ‘Ang, we have to get this material [out]’. He put so much effort into them, but we never got to put them down at the time, and it stuck with me. That’s really what got me to this point.”

Released today, amid the smorgasbord of formats and Power Up bundles, the one attracting the most attention is its Deluxe Box. Retailing at £49.99, the collectible lightbox features an illuminating AC/DC logo (“You can put it on your mantelpiece,” beamed Cheuse), and contains a battery operated two-watt speaker playing a guitar riff/static, a USB wire, CD and 20-page booklet.  

Here Jenifer Mallory, EVP/general manager at Columbia Records in the States, takes us further inside the campaign…

What does this album mean to rock music in 2020?
“AC/DC is bigger than rock music, which their consistently wide appeal has always proven. From the response we’ve seen, this is clearly an album that people feel they need, and according to fans could even save 2020!”

The album was recorded in 2018/2019 – just how big of a challenge was it to keep all of this under wraps?
“There were a few leaks of photos from them in the studio and from the Shot In The Dark video shoot, but we soldiered on and kept things on track. Which is somewhat easier to do these days as the news cycle comes and goes so quickly.” 

Will streaming be the key to reaching a new generation of fans, or will that just happen organically as it has previously?
“Well, AC/DC’s music is timeless and universal so we know that it will be handed down to future generations as has been happening for decades. But streaming is absolutely key, yes. It’s impossible to reach a new generation of fans without streaming. With that said, it doesn’t mean we give up on some of the more traditional manners that have worked well for the band in the past. The fans love the traditional elements as well. They want to hear the strum of the guitar, the lightning bolt crack, all the elements that make AC/DC who they are. We can’t give up on that, but we certainly cannot look past streaming. DSP’s offer us the ability to connect on a global scale with a click of a button. We can message fans, share new imagery, and most importantly, build a lasting community.”

What are the pre-orders for all the formats like so far?
“The pre-orders are doing very well for the new release, especially in a market where physical and digital album sales have declined. We have several offers available on the physical side. Our marquee item is the limited edition deluxe CD lightbox. The packaging fits this band so well – it’s loud, it lights up, it grabs your attention from a store shelf, it’s a collector’s piece that the core fans must have. The numbers prove it. Additionally, we have several other physical formats including multiple vinyl variations. The continued resurgence of vinyl has been pretty remarkable. We wanted to make sure that our retail partners have something special to offer in that space, including custom packaging and color variants. The response to all options – CD, deluxe, vinyl, cassette – has been red hot. We’re on pace to crush their previous pre-order totals of the past decade plus.” 

It’s obviously quite unusual and difficult to launch the biggest rock album of the year without a tour to support it – how do you compensate for that?
“Even without a tour, the goals are the same. We want the band’s presence to be felt and for fans to feel connected.  Whether they’re reading the paper, watching sports, on a streaming platform or scrolling through the socials, we want to make sure the fans feel the band’s return. We know people these days are in their own pockets of the internet, their own online communities.  We want to make sure we’re reaching them wherever they are and letting them know that there’s a new AC/DC album and it’s a must-listen. That’s going to happen through savvy digital marketing, real-world activations, strong brand partnerships, robust global advertising and much more.  We also know the importance of press. That landscape has changed a lot since the band’s last album, and the band has been working incredibly hard to make sure they’re reaching their fans across outlets and platforms.”

Finally, what are the global ambitions you have for this record?
“We’ve seen such incredible fan and media reaction around the globe celebrating AC/DC’s return – we’re anticipating stellar debuts [in the global charts]. Our ambition is simply to have the world enjoy this phenomenal body of work the band has delivered – not just release week but for years to come.”

Subscribers can read the full AC/DC cover feature interview here. 

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