U2’s ‘Songs of Innocence’ an unwanted gift

By Managing Editor

Irish rockers U2 teamed up with Universal Music Group and Apple Inc. to announce the release of the band’s latest album, Songs of Innocence, on Sept. 9.

The announcement came after Apple Inc. unveiled the iPhone 6, iPhone 6 Plus and the iWatch at an Apple keynote event on the same day. 

The press release from Apple went on to explain that the company was “gifting” the album to iTunes users across the globe, which may explain its misleading status as the largest album release in history with more than half a billion copies distributed to iTunes account holders. 

Songs of Innocence is also streaming on iTunes Radio and Beats Music, and customers who sign up for an iTunes Store account within five weeks of the album’s initial release will also receive the album for free. 

For those fans who already have a registered iTunes Store account, the album is free—and in many cases, it is automatically in their queues, whether they want it there or not. 

Eddy Cue, Apple’s senior vice president of Internet Software and Services, tiptoed around the glaring oddity of the gifting spree and only addressed Apple and U2’s generosity at giving away such an amazing surprise album for free. 

“U2 has been an important part of Apple’s history in music, and we’re thrilled to make Songs of Innocence the largest album release ever,” Cue said in the press release. “We get to share our love of music today by gifting this great new album to over half a billion iTunes customers around the world.”

This is not the first time Apple and U2 have partnered up. According to the press release, Apple and Bono worked with (RED) in the past to create (PRODUCT)RED merchandise to raise awareness and promote an AIDS-free generation. Apple and U2 also collaborated to release special box sets and a special edition iPod years ago. 

“Apple and U2 share a special connection in music,” the press release said. “U2 was an important partner for the opening of the iTunes Store in 2003.” 

It seems that Apple and U2 have a symbiotic relationship, but not all of their consumers agree that sharing is caring. While some U2 fans may be delighted at the surprise that awaited them in their iTunes library, others who have meticulously monitored which songs and albums make the cut into their library are not as pleased.

In essence, Apple and U2 found a way to hop on the surprise-album bandwagon, and in disregarding the notion that iTunes users might enjoy choosing their own music, they did it wrong. 

While Apple/Universal/U2 continue to tout their generous gifting habit, I would not be so quick to brag about the record-high distribution rate after essentially forcing the 11-track absurdity down people’s throats. 

Forced popularity does not count as actual popularity. Rather, the combined efforts of Apple, U2 and Universal seem to be more a desperate attempt to reinforce the band’s relevance and draw in added attention before U2’s next album is released than it is a token of affection from fans and consumers.