Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Songs of Innocence: U2's most generous album giveaway

Free music / U2's Song of Innocence

On the same September day that Apple's chief executive, Tim Cook, unveiled his company's iPhone 6 earlier this month in Cupertino, Calif., U2 made a surprise appearance that shook the world and left 500 million iTunes subscribers with a little some extra in their library, the supergroup's new album Songs of Innocence.

I welcomed the opportunity at downloading the latest music from Bono -- getting my hands on something free that otherwise would have cost me at least $9.99 or more. I've listened to the entire album at least half a dozen times in the three weeks since I added the album on Sept. 9, the first day of its release, to my iTunes library and iPod. And, there's lots to like on Songs of Innocence. There's plenty of Bono's confessions to go around for everyone.

In an interview with Rolling Stone, Bono said, "We wanted to make a very personal album. ... Let's try to figure out why we wanted to be in a band, the relationships around the band, our friendships, our lovers, our family. The whole album is first journeys -- first journeys geographically, spiritually, sexually. And that's hard. But we went there."

However, within a few days of its release (Apple owns a five-week distribution and streaming exclusivity), which Cook marketed as "the largest album release of all time," I came to realize that my enthusiasm for U2 -- I've always really, really liked that band -- placed me in a minority. Initially, there was a backlash via social media that caused a bit of controversy.

"Who is U2 and why are they sending me their spam music files?" voiced one disgruntled recipient.

It hasn't always been easy to remember that fact that many, many people really like U2 "amid the caustic -- and often hilarious -- responses to the band's Sept. 9 release of Songs of Innocence," wrote Time magazine in a recent cover story.

According to Time, "U2's decision to team up with Apple to deliver the new album to every iTunes subscriber, unasked, raised valid questions about consumer choice and personal space in a world that routinely infringes on both. Moreover, while Apple paid U2 for the album, critics of the deal suggest this point may have been lost on iTunes customers who got it for free (including yours truly). If so, that messaging is certainly at odds with U2's intentions."

In analyzing Apple's U2 mistake for Forbes, contributor Bobby Owsinski wrote: "For U2, the motivation here appears to be all money. There's been no mention anywhere of exactly how much Apple paid the band for the album, but it was mostly likely far more than they could ever have expected had they released in conventionally.

"In fact, this album release appeared to be a last minute decision since there have been reports for some time that the band had postponed its release until 2015 and had pushed the tour schedule back to coincide. With no current tour, U2 can't capitalize on either the album or the current hype surrounding it."

The lead single on Songs of Innocence, "The Miracle (of Joe Ramone)", is currently being featured in an Apple TV commercial  that's part of a promotional campaign for the band on which Apple is spending $100 million.

"Being part of a $100 million ad campaign is always nice though, but again, to what end?" asks Owsinksi. " It's not about brand building since their brand is well-established, and they're not promoting anything at the moment, so it must have been a good chunk of change that Apple slid into the band's coffers.

"So it looked like both parties were off the mark here, although in a couple of weeks we'll all have forgotten about it and moved on to other things."

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