For U2 and iTunes fans, the offer was too good to be true – the new album for free. But iTunes and U2 received tremendous backlash from a world not thrilled with the idea. As singer Bono has since admitted, while ignoring the money involved, he finds his ego clouded his judgment in assuming everyone would want a gift of the U2 album and that not all iTunes users like the band.
“I’m sorry about that,” Bono, who is the group’s charismatic leader, said. He said that they thought they had a beautiful idea to give the album away, but “might have gotten carried away with ourselves.” What he failed to say is that the $100 million the group earned probably helped inflate those egos.
iTunes, Apple and U2 announced the album, Songs of Innocence, would initially only be available to iTunes customers – and would be free of charge. They neglected to say ahead of time that iTunes users would not have a choice whether they wanted the album or not. As a result, an estimated 500 million people in 119 countries suddenly found the album in their music libraries, using up storage space, on their iPhones, computers and other places they store iTunes songs. There was also no way for those who do not like U2 to delete the songs (an oversight that Apple has since rectified given the rattle and hum about it).
An example of the reaction came from one person who posted a request on a U2 Facebook site Q&A that they never put out an album that automatically is downloaded into libraries again. The writer then added, “It’s really rude.”
Bono acknowledged, “There’s a lot of noise out there.” Citing that rockstars are prone to big egos and self-promotion, the U2 frontman also admitted to harboring a “deep fear that these songs that we poured our life into” might otherwise not be widely heard.
While it sounds altruistic that they wanted to share their music with the world, Apple paid U2 handsomely for the album. Yes, they would have earned more by selling 500 million copies, but the reality is that only a small percentage of those who received the album from Apple would have bought it.
Apple and U2 have actually been collaborating on projects for a decade. There have been TV commercials (remember the one featuring Vertigo that heralded the debut of one iPod), a special edition iPod with all the U2 songs to date preloaded, and Red devices to support (PRODUCT)RED’s fundraising campaign, which is spearheaded by Bono.
The ego that might have clouded judgment now finds U2 and Bono earning more money from the album, which is no longer available for free. Additionally, U2 and iTunes now have new songs available to buy in the album Songs of Innocence which were not included in the free version. Needless to say, the iTunes “Complete My Album” feature does not allow the new material to be downloaded for free to join the rest of the album in the libraries of listeners who did not delete it.
By Dyanne Weiss