U2 Album Gifting: Free Or An Assault On Everything That Makes Freedom Worth Having?

Pride-in-the-name-of-loveI have to admit, when I heard about the free album from U2 waiting for me in my iTunes account I did not for a minute think about what it would mean if I hated the artists involved or just wasn't interested. For some, like Tyler, The Creator, it was an awesome opportunity for piggyback marketing. For others, it was an intrusion by Apple into space customers felt to be private. But, at the end of the day, it's looking like this was a win for U2 and a likely fail for Apple.

Free. What Is It?

In the case of stuff people give away, free is when you get something without paying that someone else has paid for with their resources in the form of labor, creative thought or cash money, among other possible forms of payment.

It's free for the person or people who get it without paying in any form but it's always paid for by somebody in some form.

In Bono's mind, the giveaway of a bunch of albums at no cost wasn't "free" cause he got paid. But that's what comes of taking a mantra like "free music is bad" and turning it into a bumper sticker view of the universe when you think of yourself as being at the center of that universe.

This part of the discussion perhaps matters least. But given that U2 will also be working with Apple, we now have multiple high profile music industry figures gathering together at Apple who belligerently misrepresent common language and facts so they can make more money (Iovine/Reznor).

Arguments Over "Free" Aren't The Issue

Though I questioned the notion that the U2 free album giveaway was innovative I did recognize it as a major marketing event. But I see now that my brain was clouded with age and sentimentality in thinking that Apple working with U2 was a special event.

Tyler, The Creator noted the lack of innovation in his own special way:


But a few tweets later he was praising Bono. Well, that's why you don't turn to juvenile delinquents for substantive critique.

However his initial response was one shared by many. A lot of people did not appreciate discovering U2 in their iTunes.

In fact, though Tim Cook described the availability of 500 million downloads as the "largest album release of all time," as of a few days ago there were only a couple of million downloads some of which might have been due to accounts designed to automatically download purchases.

Apple's Two Biggest Mistakes

There are lots of angles to critique the Apple/U2 marketing stunt but Peter Kafka summarizes two key points:

1) "Why would Apple think we would all want to hear the same stuff? 'Never before have this many people owned an album — let alone on the day it was released,' Apple tells me via a promotional email in my inbox today."

"But that doesn’t sound like something Apple would care about — it sounds like something U2 and its music label would care about. Then again, Apple just hired the guy who used to run U2’s music label."

2) "If you’re trying to convince me that the stuff I store in my cloud is safe, don’t open up my cloud without permission…a gift on my doorstep is one thing. A gift that you left in my house, after letting yourself in, is something different."

Nicely put.

Given the increase in back catalog sales of U2 albums, this was a successful move for U2. The people that are getting mad are likely not fans. But most of them are probably iTunes users and it's turning out to be a bad look for Apple.

[Thumbnail image courtesy Wattpad.]


Hypebot Senior Contributor Clyde Smith (@fluxresearch) recently launched DanceLand. Send news about music tech startups and services, DIY music biz and music marketing to: clyde(at)fluxresearch(dot)com.

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