Music Industry

U2 Got Paid HOW MUCH by Apple? WOW.

If you’re an iTunes user, you of course automatically released a copy of Songs of Innocence in your library.  An early report said that 200,000 copies were downloaded in the US on that first day.  If that’s the case, then that’s a pretty low number considering how many Americans are on file with iTunes.  Universal–U2’s label–dismissed that estimate as “wildly inaccurate.” But that’s all they’ll say.

A bigger question for me is how much did all this cost?  Here are the factors involved:

  • U2 providing exclusive access to the album for iTunes for six weeks.
  • Apple providing distribution to 500 million iTunes subscribers in 119 countries.
  • U2 appearing in an Apple commercial for the iPhone 6 that features the new single.
  • U2 has a deal with Live Nation. They had to figure in to the negotiations somewhere.
  • Compensation to Universal music for six weeks of lost sales and a reduced number of units for when the physical release finally comes out October 14.
  • Some kind of sop to Universal’s retail partners (i.e. record stores) to keep them from going batshit.
  • U2’s hard costs for making the album and travelling to Cupertino for the event.  And for their performance, of course.

One estimate that I keep seeing is $100 million.  That’s ONE HUNDRED MILLION DOLLARS FROM APPLE TO U2 for the privilege of hosting and distributing this album for six weeks.

A huge number, yes, but given the scale of this project–a global release to help promote Apple’s new product line–it’s not out of the realm of possibility. Apple is, after all, the biggest company in the world by market capitalization (sometimes number two, depending on the kind of quarter Exxon has).  And note that this $100 million doesn’t go entirely to the band, too.

Still, that’s a lot of cash. Billboard spoke the U2 manager guy Oseary about the deal.


Alan Cross

is an internationally known broadcaster, interviewer, writer, consultant, blogger and speaker. In his 40+ 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.

Alan Cross has 38296 posts and counting. See all posts by Alan Cross

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