It’s been a long time coming for fans, but the Detroit rocker is making some of his classic material available digitally via iTunes for the first time. “We’re finally doing it,” Seger tells the Detroit Free Press. “We’re going digital.”
Available now are Seger’s two multiplatinum concert albums — “Live Bullet” (1976) and “Nine Tonight” (1981) — released for download at iTunes and Amazon. Also making its iTunes debut is “Early Seger Vol. 1,” a collection of spruced-up tracks and previously unreleased fare from the early 1970s.
With 16 studio albums to his name, and a new one to come next year, the 66-year-old Michigan icon has only cracked the surface, and says his remaining catalog "will come out in dribs and drabs."
Seger, who has never released a boxed set, says he’ll use iTunes to unveil songs from his sizable backlog of unreleased material. “There’s just so much of that stuff,” he says. “I’d love people to finally hear it.”
In the decade since Apple launched iTunes, Seger was one of the most prominent holdouts, part of a stubborn but shrinking cast that still includes AC/DC, Garth Brooks, and fellow Detroit star Kid Rock. Other recent joiners include the Beatles, and the Supreme Court may have paved the way for more: In March, it acted in favor of Eminem in a lawsuit over digital royalty rates — a longtime sticking point for many acts: "From a business standpoint, we wanted to make sure artists are getting what we consider a fair shake,” says Ed "Punch" Andrews, who has managed Seger since the mid-1960s.
For Seger, who emerged during the era of album-oriented rock, there were other challenges. Concerned about audio fidelity and the emphasis on singles over albums, his team watched the rise of online music stores with a wary eye: "It’s probably the best delivery system ever invented, but the industry gave up a lot of quality to have that system,” Andrews says. “At some point, if this is what everybody is accepting, we know we have to keep current. But if we were going to do this, we needed to make sure it was as great as we could make it.”
"Live Bullet” and “Nine Tonight” underwent more than a year of remastering to ensure top sonic quality for the downloadable versions. “It wasn’t about doing this quickly, but doing it right,” Andrews says.
Andrews also frets that by serving up track downloads on the fly, the online services have eroded the artistic integrity of albums. “This delivery system is about singles,” said Andrews. “Something like ‘Turn the Page’ would never have occurred if this had been the way of the world back then.”
But Seger and his camp know there’s one undeniable advantage to the digital realm: flexibility. This week’s releases will each include a bonus track: “Live Bullet” will feature a version of Albert King’s “I Feel Like Breaking Up Somebody’s House,” performed in 1976 by Seger and his Silver Bullet Band at the Pontiac Silverdome. “Nine Tonight” will come with a 1980 version of his own “Brave Strangers.”
To celebrate Seger’s introduction to iTunes, a digital ‘Bonus EP’ will be available for "Live Bullet" and "Nine Tonight" download for one week only exclusively through iTunes. The disc includes tunes such as "Mainstreet" and live versions of "Hollywood Nights" and "Ramblin’ Gamblin’ Man."
Get your FREE Seger EP here.