Its hard to believe that Apple as big as it is needed U2. Last week with the announcement of the iPhone 6, 6+ and the apple watch they ended the live presentation by giving away the new U2 album to a half a billion people. And none of them even saw it coming.
Bono is a very smart business man. He made it clear on stage that he was not giving his album away for free. Apple paid big bucks to make this album free to the public.
Apple is a smart company. They are painfully aware that digital downloads are slowing and people are turning to streaming apps like Spotify and Rdio. Apple knows this and so they bought Beats. However, Apple has the biggest music story in the world so they need to protect their investment. What do stores do to get people in the door? It’s called a door buster. Best Buy does them, Walmart does them and now millions and millions of people who were thinking about getting a new iPhone 6 were now on their old phones in the “retired” music app looking for something new.
Apple was sending a message. Apple was reminding people about how good it is to own music again. They gave something that doesn’t disappear if you stop paying a fee at the end of the month. In fact the album art is even positioned to remind people how good it is to own music. Its vinyl that is the hip new way to own music. Collectors aren’t lining up to purchase CDs anymore, they go around hunting vinyl. So U2 comes out with an album that looks like a vinyl? What are they trying to say here - it feels good to own your music.
The launch was spontaneous in order to stir a buzz. It got people scrolling through their iTunes library when the 5 second count down didn’t work out that well. Could that have been planned as well? I didn’t know how it would work so when I didn’t see U2 show up on my phone at first I checked the iTunes store and scrolled around. How much other traffic did iTunes see that day?
The album is U2’s most commercial friendly record to date. It will reach the broadest audience of any current artist. Another phone company did this type of release before but it was with a phone purchase and it was a rap album that lent itself to a smaller demographic. This is 500 million people. The album is not only set to reach a broad number of people, but it has a much large audience primed and ready.
In the day of slowing digital downloads and slowing music sales over all, Apple gave the music industry a jolt kind of like defibrillator paddles. U2 set the record for biggest album release, most digital downloads and put downloads back on the incline. History was made and Apple wanted U2 to make it with them by their side.
Since Bono is extremely business savvy he found a way to capitalize on this opportunity of being needed by the biggest music industry giant. My guess is that Apple bought the album for a lump some similar to what they made in total off their last album, or they pay per actual download at a discounted rate. Since Bono used the word “bought,” past tense, my sense was that there was large lump sum. Not only that but there will be a physical version on Oct. 12th that will act as a deluxe version with more songs (confirmed by AXS.com’s Chase Hunt). Bono also used his U2 site to mention that sooner than later a follow up sister album called Songs of Experience (which has since been edited out of the article but confirmed on other sites).
This release has led to 9 other U2 back catalogue albums breaking into the top 100 album downloads, while 24 have made the top 200 on iTunes (cited from NME.com). I didn’t buy any new albums, but I did trade someone an old cd for a U2 album on Murfie.com. (Side note: most other back catalogue U2 albums are there for $2). Apple set the stage, but U2 found ways to capitalize it from all sides.
The album artwork has Sept. 9th handwritten on the front, no doubt a way to symbolize forever what Apple is trying to do. They are leading people back to the iTunes store. From September 9th to Oct. 12th, when the album releases to all retailers, the only way to hear the world’s biggest album is to hear it straight from Apple.
And that of course is the way Apple likes it.