Kid Rock Lifts iTunes Boycott With 'Rebel Soul' Album

'Times are different than they were on the last release,' says his manager

November 8, 2012 12:10 PM ET
Kid Rock
Kid Rock
Justin Sullivan/Getty Images

Kid Rock, who has pointedly stonewalled Apple in the past, will release his new LP Rebel Soul through the dominant online retailer. The album, due on November 19th, is available by pre-order on iTunes, and its first single "Let's Ride" is already for sale.

"We have landed," says Lee Trink, the Detroit rapper's manager. Until now, Rock withheld all his music from iTunes, and he once recorded a sarcastic video encouraging music pirates to "level the playing field – steal everything."

"Times are different than they were on the last release," says his manager. "There are fewer record stores available, and there are fans who don't necessarily want to get in the car and drive to the store. They've been accustomed to buying it digitally. He's proven his point that he was able to have an incredibly successful record without iTunes, [but] that doesn't mean you can't reassess the landscape and take a look at people's buying behaviors."

After lengthy conversations with Trink and Atlantic Records executives, Rock made the decision himself. He has argued for years that albums should be sold as a unit as opposed to a collection of inidivual tracks, and has ripped Internet pirates for dictating how he gets to sell his own music. In the summer of 2008, as "All Summer Long" was dominating the charts, he told Billboard: "As soon as someone says, 'You have to be on iTunes . . . they're the Number One retailer' . . . I don't have to. Because I remember being a kid when I heard a song that I liked, I would jump on the bus, ride to Detroit, get a $2.50 transfer and walk a mile to the hip-hop store to buy the new Eric B. and Rakim record. You're not going to stop people from obtaining what they want if it's available at some level."

Rock has appeared to needle Apple and iTunes over the years, selling his music through competing online retailers such as Amazon and walmart.com; in his "steal everything" video, he deadpanned: "Bill Gates and Steve Jobs – they're not gonna miss a couple laptops and a couple iPods." Trink, a former top executive at EMI and Atlantic, wasn't managing Rock when he authorized other retailers, so he wouldn't comment on that issue.

Rock has also appeared to contradict his label's iTunes policy – like all the big record labels, Atlantic has sold the majority of its catalog through the online store since it opened in 2003. (iTunes has sold 25 billion tracks as of March, long ago becoming not only the top online music retailer but the top music retailer.) Contractually, Trink says, "Let's say there's a disagreement in how the language read – but [Atlantic executives] respected his wishes. It didn't wind up being a point of contention."

Now, Rock is no longer one of the final iTunes holdouts. Although the Beatles, Led Zeppelin and Rock's hero, Bob Seger, have caved in recent years, AC/DC, Tool and Garth Brooks remain absent. (Trink says Rock's reps are even considering a Spotify release, although they haven't made a decision.) So far, competing retailers haven't complained about Rock's iTunes decision, Trink says, and pre-order sales of Rebel Soul are strong.

"Now is the right time," the manager adds. "Digital will only be a greater and greater proportion in the way recorded music is purchased. At a certain point, there will be a very tiny, tiny proportion of physical goods. You're going to have to make that decision."

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