Billboard Refuses to Recognize U2’s Latest Album…

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On Tuesday, U2’s Songs of Innocence was distributed to approximately 500 million iTunes Cloud accounts, with every copy paid for by Apple.  Still, the album won’t appear on Billboard’s album sales chart, despite being the largest album ever released in the history of recorded music.

Billboard confirmed their refusal to recognize the album in a statement issued this morning:

“While U2 surprised the music world by releasing its new album, Songs of Innocence, today as a free download to iTunes Store account holders and for streaming on Beats Music, you won’t see it on the Billboard 200 albums chart for another month and a half…


“Free or giveaway albums are not eligible for inclusion on Billboard’s album charts and do not count toward sales tracked by Nielsen SoundScan (which supplies data for Billboard’s sales-driven charts). The same sort of scenario played out in 2013 with Jay Z’s Magna Carta… Holy Grail album, which was given away to Samsung users, and, on occasion, when Google Play offers free downloads of select albums.


“Once Songs of Innocence goes on sale beginning Oct. 14, it will then set its sights on Billboard’s sales charts. On that date, the album will be available in both standard and deluxe editions to physical and digital retailers, as well as on streaming services other than Beats. Until then, only current or new iTunes or Beats account holders will have access to the album.”


Meanwhile, Billboard now appears to be taking extra steps to dismiss the impact of the massive iCloud upload (and validate its chart decision).  In a story published last night, less than 48 hours after the surprise, the publication claimed that the album has only been accessed ‘about 200,000 times’ by iCloud account holders, or 0.04% overall.  Additionally, the magazine made it very clear that it will only count albums that were directly downloaded and paid for by individuals, an arbitrarily limited purchase path that Billboard estimates will reach 150,000 units.

More as it develops.

Image by Terry Alexander, licensed under Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic (CC by 2.0).  Written while listening to Songs of Innocence.

52 Responses

  1. Anonymous

    Apple paid less than one penny per album. Of course Billboard didn’t count them as sales.

    • Anonymous

      Excuse me and my decimal in the wrong place, like 6 cents per album.

      • David

        Has the amount of the payment been officially confirmed? ‘Sources’ are quoted as saying the total is $100 million, but that includes a commitment to a publicity campaign as well as a lump sum royalty.

  2. Anonymous

    Major oversight…

    Why does Billboard even exist?

    What a stupid shithole of an industry man.

    I guess U2 didnt pay them off or stroke their egos enough.

    Its all so manipulated and contrived and so far from being legitimate anyways who honestly cares anymore?

    Same thing you see everywhere!

    How much are they making per year? Cause some great artists/producers/songwriters, you know the people they need or else they wouldnt even have a fucking job to begin with, are getting raped and fucked over all over the place and cant scrape anything together while those douchebags sit high and fancy with good salaries and benefits… Awesome, well done, good thinking…

    They just exist to help the major labels and that circle or family or whatever, they dont give a fuck about music, they dont care about us at all. Its the most backwards industry i have ever witnessed in my life, the egos, the ridiculousness of it all.

    On another note This JURISDICTION where i am forced to reside, makes sharing music legal and then for what little shitty funding it has available makes strict sales requirements on getting that funding, yet doesnt help anyone sell and promotes piracy and all that and has no tour funding to help an artists make those sales.

    Id say everyone has their heads inserted directly up their asses, but no point pointing out the obvious.


  3. dude

    Why the snarky pic? I think this was the right choice, what’s even the point of having a chart if you can straight up buy a guaranteed chart topper with corporate money?

    • Marcello

      Yeah, it’s a strange way to illustrate the story. DMN must be staffed with Apple fans.

  4. asdf

    albums that are pushed to consumers as gratis downloads, no different from junk mail, shouldn’t be counted in the billboard sales charts. this is not a direct consumer purchase. billboard is doing the right thing – if not, the logical thing.

    • Paul Resnikoff

      Does that really make sense? After all, who cares exactly who is actually paying for the albums? By their logic, Billboard shouldn’t be counting albums that were given to me by my parents on Christmas.

      But, the gift just ‘appeared’ in my stocking, right?

      Even better, what if a company gives out a goodie bag at a Christmas party to 100 employees, and it contains a U2 CD in it. Should that count?

      • some guy

        of course it shouldn’t count when your parents give you a CD for christmas. It was already counted when they traded hard-earned cash for it at Walmart.

          • Paul Resnikoff

            The analogy is purposely framed to show how arbitrary Billboard’s system is, and the struggles that any chart will have dealing with newer approaches.

            What Billboard is saying is that unless the album was purchased directly by a consumer in a specific transaction, then it doesn’t count. Which means, they are counting album downloads on iTunes from people who don’t know any better, but disregarding another purchase transaction — by Apple — of the exact same release on the exact same platform.


            (a) John goes to iTunes. John buys album for $12.95. Billboard counts it.


            (b) John goes to iCloud. John gets album previously purchased for him and listens to it. Billboard doesn’t count it.

            What, really, is the difference?

          • GGG

            The difference is why SoundScan exists. So Label X can’t just ship 20M unites to stores and say the sold 20M units.

          • Paul Resnikoff

            You’re describing the way one monitoring technology works, and therefore concluding that this is the way that chart positions should be awarded. But Soundscan is now only measuring that part over there, not the entire thing.

            The marketplace is moving quickly and radically forward. Soundscan, and its complementary chart system, were invented to support an ecosystem that has now dramatically changed.

          • GGG

            You have an argument for the Jay-Z deal I think, but this being Apple and distributing through iTunes throws a kink in it. Brick and mortar still paid for shipments, they just had the option to send them back for a refund. Since Apple is the store, it’s just the artist/label/store colluding to game the chart. I don’t think that was their play, but you know what I mean.

          • dude

            What knowledge would be gained from a chart that tracks corporate sponsored album releases the same as direct to consumer sales though? Id rather see just the direct-to-consumer numbers on the charts, that gives at least some indication of what people wanna hear. I dont really give a shit about Apple shoving the latest U2 down everyone’s throats

          • Al

            This was obviously the correct decision for billboard to make. Album sales should logically be determined by retail sales of the album. Meaning: if a person buy 1 or several albums through a retail outlet physical or online, paying a retail price for the album. Bulk purchases that do not represent a price that is available to retail buyers shouldn’t be counted.

          • Indie Label Exec

            The analogy with the parent gift is perfectly sound! The parent (Apple) bought 500 million copies and paid for it (opt-in). The parent (Apple) puts the cd in the child’s stocking (itunes) and then the child open’s (download) the gift! Perfect analogy! If I was Billboard, I might have counted at least the downloaded copies but It doesn’t matter any way as Billboard is of another era and soon to be dead!

          • some guy

            if I want to look at a chart to see what music is the best, or what to play on my radio station, or what is happening in music trends, I don’t want this promotion to skew the data. billboard has every right to ignore this event based on what is useful to their audience, just like google protects search rank against manipulation.

          • Nash

            Point is that these are PAID purchases by Apple. Does not matter the price they paid or how they wished to give the gift. To my knowledge Billboard does not decide these factors. They are a reporting service.
            It is true they have to set rules but in my humble opinion, Apple purchased and have as a gift. Key here is purchased by someone who is a soundscan reporter.
            Get with the times billboard.

      • asdf

        correct me if i’m wrong, but for an album “sale” to count on the Billboard charts there’s an implied “opt in” relationship between a consumer (me) and the artist/label (U2/Island). the “opt in” by the consumer is the money for product transaction – otherwise known as a “sale.” this is what the Billboard charts have traditionally tracked and reported, using Nielsen Soundscan sales data, not a money for product transaction between a retailer (Apple) and the artist/label (U2/Island).

        anyway, in both of the obtuse theoretical scenarios you present – your parents “opted in” and made the purchase (it ultimately doesn’t matter that they gave it to you afterward). same with your company for their xmas goodie bag. what U2 and Apple did here is closer to what a label or artist does when they mail you an unsolicited free promo. do free promos count on the Billboard charts? no. just having an Apple iTunes account and getting the U2 album for free does not in any way imply that a consumer “opted in” to acquire the album. no direct sale made, or implied – therefore not counted by Soundscan or reported by Billboard. that the artist/label (U2/Island) scored a big lump sum of cash from the retailer (Apple) is a big deal, but the Billboard charts count sales to consumers, not retailers.

        by your logic, U2/Island could’ve emailed the new album to every,, and email account in the world and it’d be the biggest “selling” album ever, and likely for the rest of time! you and i know that’s bullshit. no direct sale, no sales chart position.

        • Realist


          If Island simply emailed the allbum to everyone, then no sale occurred.

          In this case, not only did a sale occur, but Tim Cook bought all the copies. What he chose to do with it afterwards is of zero consequence. Tim Cook isn’t going to just buy all copies of just any random band’s album. U2 earned this.

          The album should unquestionably debut at the #1 position.

      • danwriter

        “By their logic, Billboard shouldn’t be counting albums that were given to me by my parents on Christmas.”
        Thos albums were counted, when they were originally purchased.

        “…what if a company gives out a goodie bag at a Christmas party to 100 employees, and it contains a U2 CD in it. Should that count?”
        Thos records fall under a standard label clause addressing promotional goods.

        “After all, who cares exactly who is actually paying for the albums?”
        Change “albums” to “votes” and Citizens United was a good decision?

  5. Anonymous

    Someone finally leverages the right way with someone to finally get reasonably compensated for something no longer recoups or sells and all uyall idiots and the fool’s at billboard are seriousluy going to drop the ball?

    No wonder I’m out looking for any opportunity possible so long as its not in the music biz.

    Some telecom, some tech company, wall street, some individual sponsor or investor, getting my own business off the ground, anything to avoid the dumb music industry wheel and tragic decison making stone age idiocy.

    Ill consult for them etc. But that’s about it. The stakes are too high, once again those that they rely on get the full anal fuck job, thanks a lot… Stupid stupid stupid, no wonder no ones got any sympathy for them.

  6. Anonymous

    If it was Stephanie or one of the Grammy caras family members they would do the necessary colluding to pop it up there, so I guess U2 isnt, or is it cause they ain’t mericans? Non music creators running the show fucking those that actually fucking do it.. awesome business, great setup, well done for your family, yall win…

  7. sirgayfag

    i wonder how much people will download the album on itunes. i won’t.
    if billboard would include this free download, they also have to start including torrent downloads into their statistics

  8. Mike

    C’mon. It’s a giveaway. Just because Apple paid a promotional fee, and I guarantee it wasn’t 1.29 per download, doesn’t make it a sale. If it goes on sale via the regular channels it doesn’t get consideration by anywhere close to 500 million people. What did Apple pay? A million? That’s more than U2 would get via regular sales.

  9. Anonymous

    They Funny Thing About This Story Goes To Show You How Billboard Is Behind The Times. This Is Just As Funny As The Music And Motion Picture Really Is They Don’t Embrace New Technology The Bitch About It First Until They Realize How Its Hurting Them Financially Then The Get On Board. Screw Billboard and Nielsen Rating They Deserve To Die As A Company….

  10. Anon

    Replace U2 with radiohead and this story would have different feel.
    I think that frontman is pretentious at best and a shadowy racist at worst.

  11. FarePlay

    It was a give-away, so there is no reason to record it as a best seller.

    The real story.

    Whether it was about Apple or U2 or both I don’t know, but it was fascinating to see the contempt expressed for this giveaway from the “free” generation. No, there’s attitude!!!

  12. JeffC

    You can be sure that U2 knew the rules before this release.
    If anyone should be questioning this, it should be U2.
    You are free to not like the SoundScan/Billboard rules, but it’s their service, their rules.
    By pushing it, rather than offering it, there is no end user transaction involved – the user had no say in it – no choice was made – not even a ‘click here for your free copy’ choice.
    If this was being counted as a sale I am willing to bet you would be complaining about ‘stuffing the ballot box’ by the industry.

  13. The Cynic

    Paul, if you’re implying it should count, then you open up a can of worms. What stops anyone from recording an album and then selling it for .01 , and buying 1,000,000 ($10K) on day 1, which would gurrantee a #1 position since nobody is selling 1m albums on day one and you think that should be in the charts? it’s a total hack. this was a promotional price available before the release date and doesn’t count. JayZ did the same and they didn’t count it. maybe you should start your own chart and count whatever you want.

    • Realist

      Sorry, but that isn’t much different from what Gaga did with her Amazon 99 cent album.

      This is how markets find their balance. Expect more of it.

  14. Anonymous

    Their rules?

    Their service?

    Great, that means they can be fired, so pack it up and carry on elsewhere!!!

    A big reason to avoid that business unless you are with them or have had the time and were fortunate enough the budget etc. to build a large enough fan-base.

    The charts is irrelevant for most, locked up and unattainable anyways, not about the music, its about which corporation can vault their superstar superhero god like figure to the top of the charts this week, its their marketing and advertising platform and they must retain full and complete supremacy at all times and why most of us with as good or better music cant compete or play the charts, as we simply cant afford to play those kinds of games. Which is fine, as i said its largely irrelevant anyways.

    Personally i couldn’t give a damn about where it was a sale or not, it’s about finally setting a value on the stuff again that makes some kind of sense, and to not make that count in any tangible way to help correlate the success, it drops the ball on really glorifying that sort of precedent.

    But billboard will trudge along and soon enough the top charting song or album will have to be so contrived and manipulated to give it only embarrassingly low numbers, by including a wide array of stuff. Reality is they arent needed, a computer could handle the task just fine! Send em packing to the unemployment line, just like they and what they support has done to so many…


  15. JAIO

    If I was Billboard, I might have counted at least the downloaded copies

    I got a copy. I haven’t opened it (yet). Not sure if I will or not. Haven’t really followed U2 since Joshua Tree.

  16. Anonymous

    whoops someone just warned me to stop talking about taking billboard down… i told them, pay me out or fucking kill me already…

    well if it was my industry, and of course its not as theyve made that very very clear, but just saying if it was my industry, i would just fire em and spread the money to those that actually need it who actually do something beneficial and positive for the industry…

    its a dog eat dog and they are the dog and to those kind of people im the piece of meat sitting in some meat locker or whatever it is they do and think…

    So go back to stanning off on your precious stephanies and shit and leave the music to people like me. thanks.

    Billboard is prehistoric and irrelevant as so many things in this world. But luckily for them people enjoy being duped and lied to and manipulated and sold lies and shit.

    So keep up the good work their stans…


  17. Anonymous

    cause their beloved god like superstar superheroes are going at me constantly, cause we cool like that, and i cant scrape anything out here, close to blowing my brains out for inability to survive in these monetary jurisdictions, and they all making how many stacks a year? hundreds possible for some of them? nice cushy job with benefits and all that eh???

    Something just doesnt add up here for me… For some reason too many crazy people think im the resurection of something, whether its Jesus or Tupac or whatever they think… Sadly for them, nope, im just me, simple old me, no one else… Never the less, something is wrong when they are paid to follow and support the people who are going at me and yet i cant make anything???

    Its a fucked up industry that is fo sho!!!

  18. Anonymous

    Billboard aint the only one i got in my crosshairs, multiple targets going on here, they may as well be one of them, cause i dont see them doing anything for me and yet they all cushed up and shit… awesome!


  19. JeffC

    They publish charts, which you are free to ignore, deride, or whatever.
    Those charts are based on a system that counts things according to… their rules.
    Those rules are publicly accessible.
    So yes – their rules, their service.

    • Anonymous

      and i would fire them all…

      terrible system, terrible rules, just the same old stuffy white haired dinosaurs who are slowing down progress and advancement everywhere all cause they feel they deserve some money for nothing, the fucking assholes!!!!

      they should be so lucky and thankful that i merely suggest just firing them, instead of some public execution for their bullshit constantly…


  20. Willis

    There was no refusal to recognize the album. The means by which the album was transferred to consumers, and the cost associated with each album, did not fall into the rules for chart consideration. It is that simple.

  21. Anonymous

    the only simple thing is the charts are archaic and not reflective of anything other then what they want the charts to be indicative of, their control and money, period, nothing to do with music or anything…

    is what it is…

  22. frissonic

    i can guarantee you that U2 does not give one shit whether or not something as useless and completely irrelevant as “Billboard” doesn’t acknowledge their record release. it doesn’t change the fact that a) it’s the largest release of all time, b) U2 is still one of the top acts of all time.

    so feel free, billboard. keep being useless.

  23. Zog

    Who cares about Billboard in 2014 ? Billboard is dead has been dead for years it needs a whole new format to even relate to the ever changing environment in today’s worlds it’s not there.

    U-2 , Iovine , Apple have a business histroy together putting Itunes , Apple products on the map .Apple owes a lot to these people. Iovine runnung around with Jobs trying to get the other majors on board was a mile stone itself Beats was pay back time $$$. Now it’s U2S time to shine with $$$ and promotion and one never forgets the people who put there selves on the line for you.

  24. Name2

    Oh noes! Snubbed by Billboard!

    Now that Bono is suffering torture, maybe Amnesty International can give HIM a hand for a change.

  25. INCA

    U2 are back on Island! I didn’t even notice after reading the liner notes in the .pdf. Sweet.

  26. Janet

    Okay, but what about the purchased albums – hard copy – after they are released? Surly their numbers should count.

  27. Brian

    What a boring album. I noticed it in my iTunes and tried listening but got bored. It’s not there anymore. Enough with these stupid gimmicks.

  28. John Seger

    Billboard’s album chart is ranked by actual sales of albums. Nothing obsolete about that. Sales are sales. Not give-a-ways. Quit trying to be clever with technical BS. You certainly know the difference. If not, you are an idiot. make that an “anonymous idiot.”

  29. matooley obrien

    U2 and Apple are perfect bed partners, both are extremely overhyped and have received exuberant amounts of free media coverage over the years. Think about all the fuss made over a new iphone release…a phone that for years has been behind in technology and too overpriced, yet the media brainwashed masses flock like flies on poop to get a iphone that does less than one at half the price.The condtioning of the masses is staggering. The Beatles had a phenomenal amount of success from 62 till a few years after their breakup..the records they sold and popularity was staggering but only after a year or 2 after the breakup their popularity waned and the radio was hardly playing their music record sales plummeted and by the mid 70,s the Beatles were all bbut a memory.Forward to December 1980 and the tragic shooting death of John.The way the music industry exploited his death is sickening.I remember most people didn’t have cable or satellite then and had basically ABC CBS NBC and a few other broadcast channels. You couldn’t turn on the t.v. without seeing a commercial trying to sell a Beatles album.The radio airways once again played the Beatles music after almost a decade of not hearing much of them.The advertising on t.v. and radio was staggering. .the music industry bombed us continually with commercials selling Beatles and John Lennon records, almost forcing you to buy one out of sympathy for John.And it happened again…BEATLEMANIA. From simply exploiting Lennons death with ungodly amounts of advertising playing on the sympathy of the masses the Beatles were selling a lot of records again.Cleverly repackaging different Beatles songs the music industry fanned the flames not letting the Beatles popularity ever die again. Starbucks iTunes have greatly helped peddle their wares always attracting new fans.I know this was off the billboard topic but the manipulation by the music industry is the same as falsely creating popularity by brainwashing the weak minded to wanna be in with the in crowd.