“You’ll have noticed the album is free to U2.com’ers from the band. It’s also free to everyone on iTunes thanks to Apple. To celebrate the ten year anniversary of our iPod commercial, they bought it as a gift to give to all their music customers. Free, but paid for. Because if no-one’s paying anything for it, we’re not sure “free” music is really that free. It usually comes at a cost to the art form and the artist… which has big implications, not for us in U2, but for future musicians and their music… all the songs that have yet to be written by the talents of the future… who need to make a living to write them.” – Bono
The above quote came from a letter posted on u2.com. Call me annoyed. Call me jaded. When the richest band in the world can’t give away music themselves, I get upset. You may ask me why.
To be clear, what happened with Songs of Innocence is not a new business model. It is not a new marketing strategy that new bands can follow. It is not attempt to change the game. It is simply a brilliant marketing maneuver by two of the biggest music corporations on Earth. And yes, U2 is a corporate dynasty.
For clarity, I am a U2 fan. The new album is impressive though will not take the world by storm except for the fact that anyone with an Apple device can listen to it. This will neither help nor hurt their legacy. The follow up album, Songs of Experience, will tell the tale whether U2 exits (and consider there could be a third album – the long rumoured Songs of Ascent) band life on top or just trying too hard to be relevant.
What irks me is that U2 could not find it in themselves to give away the album to their fans themselves. They HAD to be paid. I’m not saying they shouldn’t be paid but let’s face a fact here. U2 will get more credit for the free album giveaway because their name is on it. Most people won’t pay enough attention to realize Apple is giving it away.
U2 made over $700 million on the last tour (U2 360). If there was a band on this planet that could afford it, it’s U2. But they just couldn’t do it. Incredible marketing ploy? Sure.
That need to get paid gives all the appearances of a certain self-righteousness. They have earned their millions. I do not deny them their success. They have homes in places like the south of France, Manhattan, Malibu. They hang out with stars. They hang out with power players. It’s been a long time since we’ve seen Bono hanging out with the poor. Has he forgotten the humble beginnings? He may write about them, but does he remember the real struggles? Maybe he has, maybe he hasn’t. I don’t really know. Appearances tell me perhaps he has. I wonder if Larry is really the one who feels that need to be paid. Or is it all of them?
From my perspective either charge for the album or don’t. This idea that you getting paid because someone else was willing to give it out free is somehow supporting the art and the art form is pretty ridiculous.
A business analyst on CTV news in Toronto was discussing it this morning. “The biggest giveaway in music history…perhaps the biggest sellout in music history”.
Curious who thinks I am an ass and if anyone agrees.