During an interview moderated by Facebook on Thursday, Bono of U2 apologized to fans for the abrupt method of distribution the band utilized for their new album, titled Songs of Innocence. The album was released to all 500 million iTunes users and immediately downloaded itself into users’ libraries. The question that prompted Bono’s lighthearted apology accused the band of being rude and invasive.
The release of Songs of Innocence marked the first time that an artist widely distributed an album freely to an audience the size of the iTunes user base. It also signified a potentially revolutionary method of distribution: instead of selling the music directly to the fans as artists have always done, U2 instead opted to sell their music to a corporation like Apple and then let them handle the distribution. As a result of this innovation in the handling of the final product, a large debate began over whether or not it was intrusive or beneficial to iTunes users.
In the interview, Bono stated that it is difficult to push through the constant noise of the music industry and get songs heard by the public. This contributed largely to the band’s decision to release it to every iTunes customer. Many critics, however, do not share Bono’s sentiment, feeling that the delivery method was invasive to millions of people who did not want the album. It was not debated if the album should be available for free to iTunes customers, though. It was debated that the album should be a choice that users opt into, rather than having the record download automatically into their library. While U2 fans rushed at the opportunity to seize the free music, many users who were not U2 fans did not appreciate the invasion of their musical space.
Even though Bono briefly apologized for the U2 record’s distribution method, the issue is much deeper than the band desiring to reach a mass market. Critics of the decision debate if this could cause clients like iTunes to get flooded with unwanted content. The argument is that if one band distributes their album to all iTunes users, more will follow. If more follow, iTunes users could potentially spend the rest of their time on the service deleting automatically downloaded content they did not request. In any case, Bono did not address this in his apology.
In the video interview where Bono apologized for the method U2 utilized for record distribution, U2 also answered a number of lighthearted questions. One fan inquired whether or not The Edge feels the need to throw Bono from a window at times, with another questioning the band’s reaction to Benedict Cumberbatch photobombing them at the Oscars. The interview was formatted to elicit responses from each band member by placing them in a star shape and having answers directed towards the camera. Songs of Innocence is now available everywhere and the free iTunes distribution period ended on Oct. 13. At the end of September, the band also released a limited vinyl press of the record in order to become eligible for the 2015 Grammy awards.
By Brett Stewart