The U2-Apple Story Just Keeps On Going and Going and Going. Here’s My Take.

If all goes well, I should get a phone call from someone in U2 this afternoon.  There’s lots to talk about, of course.

  1. Why did Songs of Innocence take so long to complete?
  2. What’s the story being this second album entitled Songs of Experience and this new format that “will get people excited about buying music again?” (Note! This is more about packaging rather than anything tech-oriented.)
  3. When can we expect that? Will you be punctual this time?
  4. How was it working with Danger Mouse?
  5. Whatever happened to the rumoured Songs of Ascent?
  6. How can you possibly top the 360 Tour with the next roadtrip? When is the next tour?
  7. How did the reunion with Apple come about after they bolted for Blackberry a few years ago?
  8. Explain the Songs release plan from your perspective.
  9. What do you say to people who call this release effort “spam” and “junk mail?”
  10. Now that you’ve seen how this rolled out over the last ten days, would you do anything different?
  11. Have you ever considered the idea of a ‘grand finale’?  Or has this never crossed your mind?
  12. I’m having an end-of-season BBQ. If I called Daniel Lanois–who owes me a favour–would you come over and play?

If you have anything else, shoot me an email to [email protected] before 2pm ET today.  I only have ten minutes–and if Bono calls, it’ll be tough to get in more than two questions. (Trust me: I’ve talked to him before.)

Meanwhile, the media continues to have a field day with the U2-Apple-iTunes campaign.

  • U2 and Apple Have Another Surprise for You (TIME)
  • How U2 Became the New Nickelback (The Daily Dot)
  • What Sharon Osbourne REALLY thinks about the new album. (VVN)
  • Fall Out Boy wants to help you delete the album. (Anti-Music)
  • Is this free album an epic failure? (Sydney Morning Herald)
  • Even with free stuff, U2 can’t win. (Irish Independent)

Finally, here’s my take on the whole thing:

I’m a U2 fan–I grew up with the band–and I’m happy to get anything from them. However, the stark reality is that if you’re under a certain age, chances are U2 means about as much to you as Elvis or Bill Haley and the comments. Your attitude towards the band falls somewhere on a scale of “I don’t know what a U2 is” to “I hate this sanctimonious band of rich old farts and their hypocritical ways.” And that’s fine. Every generation has the right to have their own music and to hate the music of other generations.  It’s the cycle of life, y’know?

The album certainly has some very good moments (and remember I’m speaking as a fan here), but given what the band has in their catalogue–The Joshua Tree and Achtung Baby especially–it’s impossible for anything they create today to measure up. The fact that U2 can still write songs that sound contemporary after being together since 1976 is impressive by any standard.

The Apple campaign:  I’m of two minds on this one. I commend them of burying the hatchet with Apple to do something innovative when it comes to the distribution of new music. The idea of distributing an album to 500 million people simultaneously is a stunning technological feat.  But I wish I had been in on the conversations that resulted in this plan. Someone must have said “Is there any potential for backlash and negative PR if we do it this way?” What was the answer?

Apple is very, very good at giving away free music. Just look at the front page of the iTunes Store on any given day. Why didn’t Apple just say “We’re giving away the new U2 album to everyone. Go to iTunes now, click on the link before October 13 and it’s yours.”  Instead, they carpet-bombed 500 million people. Why? Could it be everyone involved just wanted to say that they released 500 million copies of an album?

I can see why people are upset about finding something unwanted in their iTunes library. Your music collection is an extremely personal thing. To have it invaded by an outside party can feel like a violation of privacy and property. I’d feel the same way if I woke up and found a Jay Z or Justin Bieber on my iPhone.  Wouldn’t you freak out?

Still, I love that they tried. We’ve learned a lot as a result.

 

Alan Cross

is an internationally known broadcaster, interviewer, writer, consultant, blogger and speaker. In his 30+ years in the music business, Alan has interviewed the biggest names in rock, from David Bowie and U2 to Pearl Jam and the Foo Fighters. He’s also known as a musicologist and documentarian through programs like The Ongoing History of New Music.

3 thoughts on “The U2-Apple Story Just Keeps On Going and Going and Going. Here’s My Take.

  • September 18, 2014 at 9:06 am
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    As a 36 year music retailer it pains me to see music available so freely. There was a time that U2 needed people like myself to put their music in peoples hands. We did so in anticipation of two things. Firstly it was something that myself and our staff felt strongly about and secondly if our instincts were right then that customer would return for further recommendations. Unlike most retailers I view the internet as an opportunity for retail to make more sales. Sales these days come as much from streaming services as radio airplay. Here at Compact Music we are already receiving requests for the new disc/vinyl from U2. I can only think that this may work in our favour.

    Reply
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  • September 19, 2014 at 7:51 pm
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    Billy Haley and the Comets.

    Reply

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