Along with the announcement of the iPhone 6 came another announcement that Apple thought would excite its customers, when in fact, it did exactly the opposite.
Apple released the new U2 album, “Songs of Innocence,” for free to all iTunes and iPhone users.
In theory, this is a great idea! It’s a win-win situation for everyone involved! Apple wins by tacking its sales onto a profitable source of human entertainment. U2 wins because, well, money, and the consumers win because they get a new U2 album absolutely free of charge (not to mention legal, considering the pirating landscape of the Internet now).
Sounds great, right? Look at how well it turned out for Jay-Z and Samsung! The phone company partnered with businessman/rapper Shawn Carter, AKA Jay-Z, with the release of their Galaxy 6 phone. The deal basically stated that Samsung would offer one million Samsung users the opportunity to download the album for free to their Samsung smartphone.
This technique is similar to what Tom Petty recently took on with his new album, Hypnotic Eye, and it seemed to work really well for him! So what went wrong with U2 and Apple?
The key difference between this tactic and U2’s route can be defined in one word: offered.
In Tom Petty’s case, the consumer could choose to not opt in, as opposed to requiring you to opt out. Apple’s big mistake with this project is that the sense of opting in was not an option. Holding an Apple account automatically opts you in to get the album. On a certain level, this is more of an issue of digital privacy than content of music (not to say that’s not a factor either, but I’ll get back to that later).
Digital privacy is a huge controversy. This action of offering a free album and giving it to all iTunes users made some users angry. You could argue that iTunes is Apple’s jurisdiction and they did nothing wrong. iTunes is completely run by Apple, and the iTunes store is their domain to do what they please with. However, the issue arises when Apple has the ability to modify the digital contents of your personal phone.
The notification within the phone indicated that you have the opportunity to download the album from your Cloud. Apple put the album in the user’s Cloud storage. However, with the controversy regarding privacy within the Cloud, including the leaking of naked photos from hacked celebrity iCloud accounts back in August, to the controversial security potential of Apple Pay, a breach of digital “privacy” like this only scares consumers more.
This issue flared up to the point that Apple has created a mini-site dedicated to removing the U2 album. iPhone users were calling Apple support nonstop trying to figure out how to get this U2 album off of their phone. Even though it was free to them, they didn’t want it.
This came as a surprise to Apple. With a technique so apt to go viral and the beautiful promotional videos that came along with it as TV advertising, they thought it would be a smash hit. Obviously, their theory did not correspond to their execution.
This begs the question: What about U2 made users so angry to have this free album on their phone? Why not just listen to it and move on? Had a more relevant or popular artist (Frank Ocean, for example, whose highly anticipated follow-up to his debut Channel Orange is expected this year) released a free album for us to enjoy, would users be so angry?
Over the past few years amongst social sites online, such as Reddit, a trend of hate has occurred amongst certain artists. This is the reason for Nickelback’s universal disdain on the internet. This is the reason why “The Big Bang Theory” is one of the most detested television shows shows amongst the social web. There’s a trend on the Internet to hate, and unfortunately, Bono is one of those targets.
Not to mention that a big demographic of iPhone users would not even be slightly familiar with U2 and other artists of that generation. The millennials aren’t learning about older forms of rock like they used to, and it’s a risky demographic decision considering the audience of iPhone users.
Fortunately, this does not harm Bono in any way. This album, regardless of what people think of it, will go platinum. Why? Let’s go back to Jay-Z. Jay’s album, Magna Carta Holy Grail, went platinum before it even came out. This is because to offer a free album to the 213,000+ that hold Samsung Galaxy phones, they’d have to buy well over the amount of copies it takes to go platinum. The same applies to U2. This album is platinum status regardless of the outrage.
There’s no definite reason this all happened. Maybe it’s due to privacy issues. Maybe they’re marketing to a generation who isn’t familiar enough with Bono to understand why his album is suddenly next to the new Pharrell album in their phone. I think the true issue is that no one asked for this. Having the album forced upon us like this is naturally going to cause opposition, and I personally think U2 was in the wrong place at the wrong time.
photo credit: In His World via photopin (license)