Let Me Explain Why U2 Is Damaging the Music Industry…

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The following guest post comes from Paul Quirk, president of the UK-based Entertainment Retail Association.

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U2’s much-publicised decision to give away 500 million copies of their new album around the world resulted in sales of just 6,047 additional copies of their 19-album back catalogue in the UK last week, according to Entertainment Retailers Association (ERA) analysis of Official Charts Company data.

And less than 60 of them went through High Street stores.

This vindicates our view that giving away hundreds of millions of albums simply devalues music and runs the risk of alienating the 60% of the population who are not customers of iTunes.

If one of the justifications of this stunt is that it would drive sales of U2’s catalogue through the market as a whole, then so far at least it has been a dismal failure.

Aggregate sales of U2’s catalogue amounted to 697 albums across Great Britain and Northern Ireland the week before the band announced it would give away 500m copies of their latest album, Songs Of Innocence. Last week they amounted to 6,744, a massive 868% increase, but worth at retail prices less than £50,000.

Of those sales, a massive 95.4% were digital downloads, since physical retailers were not briefed in advance to order in extra stock.

 This promotion is a failure on so many levels.  It devalues music, it alienates the majority of people who don’t use iTunes and it disappoints those who prefer to shop in physical stores since few shops had U2 stock available.

Giving away music like this is as damaging to the value of music as piracy, and those who will suffer most are the artists of tomorrow.  U2 have had their career, but if one of the biggest rock bands in the world are prepared to give away their new album for free, how can we really expect the public to spend £10 on an album by a newcomer?

Independent research conducted for ERA indicates that more than 60% of the UK public does not use iTunes.  For U2’s last album, No Line On The Horizon, 87% of UK sales in the first month were on physical formats, according to Official Charts Company data.

Dumping an album in hundreds of millions of iTunes libraries whether people want it or not, reduces music to the level of a software update or a bug-fix or just plain spam.

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93 Responses

  1. David

    Agree with everything except the first sentence. U2 didn’t decide to give away their album. They sold Apple a licence to give it to iTunes subscribers for a limited period. We don’t know exactly how much Apple paid for the privilege, but it is a fair guess that the immediate return to U2 was more than they could have expected to get from a conventional record release. If every artist could get the same deal, there would be no problem. But in reality deals like this are confined to a tiny minority of pop superstars or ‘legacy’ stadium acts who are already rich beyond the dreams of avarice (Freudian typo: when I first tried typing that ‘beyond’ came out as ‘beyonc’). For everyone else, it is a sick joke.

    • really? seriously?

      So the problem is U2 and * NOT * Spotify, Pandora, Google, The Pirate Bay or YouTube… Oh the Irony…

      • FarePlay

        Really? Seriuosly? Agreed, I’m amazed at the blow-back and even more amazed at the anger and outrage given the destruction that has taken place to artists over the past fifteen years. We’re talking about tens-of-thousands of mid-level musicians, indie filmmakers and first time authors SOL.

        U2 gives an LP away and there’s a torrent of contempt. Amazing.

        • Jonny

          Yes, it is fascinating to me. There seems to be contempt from all sides. Contempt from consumers who’ve come to believe music should be free, and contempt from other artists that seem to have agreed in the past that artists should decide how/what/where/when/by who their music is released and how much it should cost. Crazy.

        • Anonymous

          “U2 gives an LP away”

          Nope, they sold it:

          “We were paid,” Bono tells TIME. “I don’t believe in free music.”

          TIME, 9/9 2014

          • Anonymous

            …also, here’s an exerpt from another pretty interesting U2 story in TIME:

            “As an article in the new issue of TIME reveals, Bono, Edge, Adam Clayton and Larry Mullen Jr believe so strongly that artists should be compensated for their work that they have embarked on a secret project with Apple to try to make that happen, no easy task when free-to-access music is everywhere (no) thanks to piracy and legitimate websites such as YouTube. Bono tells TIME he hopes that a new digital music format in the works will prove so irresistibly exciting to music fans that it will tempt them again into buying music—whole albums as well as individual tracks.The point isn’t just to help U2 but less well known artists and others in the industry who can’t make money, as U2 does, from live performance. “Songwriters aren’t touring people,” says Bono. “Cole Porter wouldn’t have sold T-shirts. Cole Porter wasn’t coming to a stadium near you.”

          • Anonymous

            So, Apple is working on no less than a new digital music format “so irresistiblly exciting to music fans that it will tempt them again into buying music — whole albums as well as individual tracks”, and Digital Music News is not interested?

            It’s like the almost non-existent YouTube Music Key articles all over again, I don’t get it…

          • Anonymous

            This is extremely exciting! Billboard had more about it last week — here’s what U2 manager Guy Oseary said:

            “We’re working on other things as well with Apple that have to do with how music is heard and innovation, with [iTunes VP of content] Robert Kondrk leading that charge. There’s a lot of things still to come that are really interesting. The band really wants people to engage with albums, they want them to support the art form of artwork and lyrics and video content and just get into their music in a much different way than an MP3 file.”


            So here’s the future: A new proprietary Apple format — merging lyrics, artwork and video — available on iTunes!

            That’s Apple saying, “Not so fast, bro!” to YouTube Music Key.

          • Anonymous

            … in other words: Apple and Google still do what they do best:

            Google invents new ways to screw artists — Apple invents new ways to enjoy music!

      • Paul Lanning

        Desperate maneuvering necessary to promote a weak & irrelevant album from a band that’s way around the bend.

        • FarePlay

          I don’t believe this idea emanated from the U2 organization. But what does strike me about the tone and substance of your comment is how closely it resembles what critics have been saying to bands who speak up for their right to not be abused by pirate sites.

          It is the very same mean-spirited “you and your music suck” rhetoric that has inhibited the opportunity to have a meaningful conversation about the negative impact of online piracy on artists and how it deprives someone of their right to earn a living.

          • Paul Lanning

            “Right to earn a living”? This band has all the money in the world!

            If somebody wants something, they’ll reach for it without mercenary egomaniacs shoving it down their throat.

          • FarePlay

            “It is the very same mean-spirited “you and your music suck” rhetoric that has inhibited the opportunity to have a meaningful conversation about the negative impact of online piracy on artists and how it deprives >>>>someone <<<<<>>>someone<<<< refers to every working musician.

            Your comment is textbook pirate misdirection. Or you can just clear up the confusion and say your against the online piracy of music.

          • Paul Lanning

            “Right to earn a living”? This band has all the money in the world!

            If someone wants something, they’ll reach out for it without a bunch of egomaniacs shoving it down their throat.

    • ThievesArmy

      Apparently the deal was worth $100 Mil. in total. Now, that covered a lot of things, not just the album promotion, but that was their compensation.

    • Anonymous

      “U2 didn’t decide to give away their album”

      Of course not — music isn’t free. On the contrary, it’s incredibly valuable!

      And Big Tech can’t survive without it. Samsung proved that when it paid $5m for 1m copies of Jay-Zs new album in 2013. Apple proved it again by paying millions for 500m copies of U2s new album now.

      Best industry news since the fall of Megaupload.

  2. Cranberg

    You are giving U2 waaayyyyy to much credit. The only thing this stunt will be remembered as was a very crass and corporate and tacky publicity stunt.

    • Anonymous

      Well, all I’ll remember is this:

      The haters were wrong: Music is NOT free!

      Big Tech needs music! — and it’s willing to pay millions for an album!

  3. Yep

    This is an absolute JOKE!

    What business completely ignores it’s core customers, does dodgy deals behind closed doors, and spams it’s users.

    A business that is in a spiral of failure and decline.

    This is the line drawn between the old business (ownership and out of touch artists) and the NEW business which is subscription and engaged artists.

    • Versus

      I’ll take the old business where artists actually could focus on art instead of “social media”.

  4. wallow-T

    The quote which caught my eye:

    “Aggregate sales of U2’s catalogue amounted to 697 albums across Great Britain and Northern Ireland the week before the band announced it would give away 500m copies of their latest album, …”

    Six Hundred and Ninety Seven albums. That’s for the entire catalog of roughly 20 albums covering 35 years of one of the, what, top-10, top-20 artists in sustained popularity? I thought the classical album sales numbers reported by Norman Lebrecht were jaw-dropping, but this? In sales terms, this is fanzine territory!! This is the public speaking very loudly, about albums: Do Not Want.

    • David

      Alternatively, everyone who likes U2 albums already has as many as they want. How likely is it that someone new will ‘discover’ U2 and say to themselves: ‘wow, I must buy their whole catalog!’ ? Sure, it can happen, but it’s not like U2 are an obscure band to be ‘rediscovered’ by new generations.

    • dude

      What kind of numbers did you expect? The last time I remember U2 doing something commercially big before this was “How to Dismantle an Atomic Bomb” which is 10 years old now, and they havent been artistically relevant since the late 80s. 700 copies a week in the UK alone is not bad at all for a catalog that old

  5. GGG

    I agree with this guy on the whole, but his reasons are almost all based purely around record stores.

    So U2 is damaging the music industry because more people ended up buying their older music on iTunes than at b&m? Ok, so then literally every band ever is also damaging the music industry.

    Also, did this stunt really make throngs of people run to record stores in search of U2 albums?

    • FarePlay

      I think that is the point being made. For some the anger directed at U2 is a culmination of the frustration that the steady, decades old, onslaught of free, whether it be piracy based or the actual artist(s) choosing to give their music away, has done to create the false perception that music has no value. Why pay when I can get it for free?

      And no GGG, it isn’t just about record stores, although that’s part of the collateral damage.

      As far as streaming music goes, it is far less the “innovative” future of music than the pandering and opportunism of enterprises that played on the weakness of a battered business and continue the self-fulfilling prophecy by giving their service away. Pandora has been doing it for nearly a decade and Spotify has done so since their beginning.

      There is no mystery why Netflix is phenomenally successful to the extent they, like HBO, can invest in supporting the creation of high-quality content; they demand that subscribers pay for their service.

      So if U2 is the focus of all this derision, it is in large part a result of the collective frustration expressed after a very disappointing decade where music, as a profession, has been slammed to the ground.

      • GGG

        99% of this dude’s points are directly geared toward record stores. He complains about an 800% increase in sales because most of them happened online. It’s the epitome of why our industry will be in this shitty purgatory for way too long; people can’t let go of the past. Anyone spending a lot of energy fretting about the loss of b&m as anything more than a sad part of cultural progression should be kicked out of the industry. Yes, it sucks, but so has the loss of a countless amount of shit humans have invented over the years.

        And streaming is the best possible mode of music consumption at this point in time. People can hear whatever they want whenever they want. That’s good for all artists, too, especially since everyone and their mother is now in a band or a DJ or whatever. Change the word ‘piracy’ to ‘access’ in half these discussions and everything will seem great on paper. The issue is the pay structure, not the format, though yes, they are intrinsically linked to a degree.

  6. Anonymous


    Wow man, i pretty much disagree with this across the board. No wonder im trying to make something else happen as the music biz and i just dont see eye to eye on pretty much everything…

    Giving what away?

    I do think that the public perception, lacking full knowledge and lack of desire to peel layers, will tend to move towards a music is free ideology, which was already so far gone by this time that i dont think this will have much affect.


    The goal is to leverage those RIGHTS for as much money as possible, regardless anything else.

    It’s too early to tell what the long game will result in here but i would like to believe it can only help IF the music industry handles it properly, which so far obviously it isn’t.

    The knee jerk reactions like this only go to show that these dinosaurs are sweating bullets big time right now and are trying any sort of anti propaganda campaign to reassert their importance and middleman position.

    Heres the frank bottom line. I have PROPERTY RIGHTS. Apple steps up and makes the best offer resulting in the most compensation for the rights and licenses that were negotiated. Nothing else matters… So what if only a certain amount of people use iTunes or the charts wont this or that. None of that matters.

    Thats why id happily shake hands with some Bullionaire if that was the person with the best offer even if they wanted to take it all and just burn it so no one ever hears it again.

    The goal when OWNING COPYRIGHTS is to make the most profit per copyright, by any means necessary.

    I think this is a brilliant move. Lets be honest, the music business has had its head shoved so far up its ass for so long now that anything they say means squat!!!


  7. Anonymous

    It is honestly probably the biggest genius play ive ever seen in the music industry! Of course ive been suggesting that and fucking hammering that position for awhile now, sadly its someone else that makes it happen and who is benefiting from it, as per the norm in my life!!!

    They still own their Masters and they got a hunny milly…


  8. lolwut

    Uh, I highly doubt U2 did this deal to move more units from their back catalogue.

  9. anonymous

    If they decided to give away everything they own, what has that got to do with me? It’s not like they are responsible for the rest of us. Times change. You roll with those changes or fall by the wayside. I say more power to them!

  10. Ian

    Shrewd move by U2 – awful album that no-one would buy but they made 100m up front…

  11. Paul Resnikoff

    This argument is aligned with those of Billboard, the Official Charts Company, and traditional retailers who are prioritizing a specific consumption path, ie, the direct purchase of an album by an individual. But isn’t that like saying if people don’t consume chocolate in the form of cookies, it’s damaging the entire chocolate industry?

    Or worse yet, if the city of New York purchased 100,000 brownies and handed them out on Fifth Ave., that somehow those purchases shouldn’t count?

    The absurdity of this is mind-blowing, sorry.

    • some guy

      if i published a brownie rating magazine, my readers would probably be upset if the New York buyout skewed the charts for Duncan Hines. I wouldn’t count it. sorry

    • Faza (TCM)


      I guess you missed the bit about: “if one of the biggest rock bands in the world are prepared to give away their new album for free, how can we really expect the public to spend £10 on an album by a newcomer?”

      Or DMN’s coverage of Superbowl half-time, for that matter.

      See, I can imagine, at this very moment, a lot of managers/label execs sitting and thinking: “U2 got their album in front of 500 million punters and got Apple to pay them $BIG_NUM, all without lifting a finger. How can we get a piece of that action?”

      I wouldn’t be particularly surprised if people are currently floating balloons of this nature past Apple. Hey, they might even be content with $MUCH_SMALLER_NUMBER, because, y’know, 500 million punters.

      Apple, however, are a for-profit enterprise and even $MUCH_SMALLER_NUMBER will cut into profits, so if they see a lot of interest in such promotions, they might suggest that it’s actually worth $0. Even then, they’re likely to see interest from artists/labels, because, y’know, 500 million punters.

      All it takes from there is for someone at Apple to have a flash of inspiration: artists/labels should actually be paying Apple $BIG_NUM to give their stuff away, because, y’know, 500 million punters.

      • Anonymous

        “I guess you missed the bit about: “if one of the biggest rock bands in the world are prepared to give away their new album for free”

        Um, guess you missed the fact that U2 didn’t give away their new album for free — they sold it!

        • Faza (TCM)


          They took money for engaging in an Apple promotional stunt. If they took the money for a license for Coca-Cola to include download codes under Coke caps would we be having this conversation?

          Counting this gimmick as recording sales is about as sensible as saying you played to a sold out stadium audience – during the Superbowl.

          • dude

            I have recently and probably will again.

            I think you’re freaking out about nothing, only a very bland middle-of-the-road non controversial act would even have a shot at something like this and even then who would do it for free? Corporate shilling is not a good look for a would-be rockstar, its not gonna do your career much good to sell your soul (and cheaply) in front of 500 million people. It only really makes sense as a way to cash out — both Jay Z and U2 are in the twilight of their career and probably dont have another traditional commercial success in them anyways so its great for them

    • PTSoundHound

      1) record label sets up its own digital album store
      2) record label populates that store solely with albums they want to promote that week
      3) record label store prices those albums at $1,000,000 each
      4) record label store sees 0 unit sales to the general public (so doesn’t have to worry about any of that messy “dealing with customers” malarky)
      5) record label store then issues record label a special promo voucher code enabling it to buy 10,000,000 copies of a single album for $0.01
      6) record label store report 10m sales number to Nielsen SoundScan, OCC etc.

      So there’s nothing wrong with that either?!?

  12. Jabsco

    Sounds like U2 got paid really well and everyone is talking about them.

    Good for them.

    • Anonymous

      Indeed — and everybody’s talking about iTunes. Good for them, too.

      And what’s good for iTunes is good for artists.

  13. Anonymous

    I’m guessing that much of the good money for U2 is in the touring, so if they can get a corporation to pay them $100 million to produce a record and promote their brand in the form of giving the album away, that’s gravy for them.

    At the very least, all this controversy puts the band more front and center in the public’s consciousness. So perhaps it helps them to have a better tour in the long run. And if the tour under-performs, well, they already got $100 million.

    That said, as Quirk points out, this model isn’t going to be very workable for most artists. It’s a short-term kind of strategy for incumbents to maximize their equity while they still can. But it doesn’t do very much for the long-term health of the over-all ecosystem.

    For better or worse, in the old system of widget sales, profits from hit-artists subsidized the development of new acts. And while this sort of long-term vision has been slowly eroding for a few decades as major labels have become more focused on the bottom line, it’s still a part of the puzzle.

    Unless U2 starts its own label or some kind of emerging artists venture capital fund, little or none of its windfall contributes to emerging artist development. To me, that’s the long-term damage. And that’s the long-term problem that still needs to be worked out.

    On the one hand, technological advances have allowed artists to do more low-cost bootstrapping at the start of their projects. But eventually, unless they are independently wealthy, they’re going to need investment to take things to a larger scale. In the 20th century, labels provided this investment. But if the old label model is no longer viable, then somebody (or something) else needs to step into the void. And I don’t think that crowd-funding is the answer.

    • danwriter

      Whoever you are, this is the single most sensible and cogent comment in this thread. Possibly on this site. Ever.

  14. David

    Um, am I the only one yet to hear anything about the songs? People may be taking about U2 right now, but none of the discussions have started with, “Hey, have you heard that great new U2 song?”

    • Versus

      Unfortunately, the problem with non-musical publicity stunts is that they actually distract attention away from the songs.

    • Scott808

      I found this thread because I heard about this whole thing on the radio and wanted to understand why people are so upset about getting a free album.
      I’ve read many of the comments and my take is simple.
      This is a free market system and we have the right to market our product how we see fit.
      As someone mentioned, everyone is talking about both Apple and U2 and that is success no matter how you slice it. Whether it’s “irresponsible” or “damaging” to the music industry is way above my pay grade not to mention the fact that it falls under the “who the hell cares” category in the book of what’s important to me. (volume 2 download it today for free)
      The real reason I chose to comment was to say this….Have you listened to the album?
      I just started to and I love that first song “The Miracle (of Joey Ramone)
      It sounds familiar, is it new?
      Anyway it’s awesome….

  15. Anonymous

    “U2’s much-publicised decision to give away 500 million copies of their new album”

    Woah, when did they do that?

  16. blahblah

    Can we stop mentioning this invented $100 million number? It came from one article, and copied worldwide, much like this so-called $25 million Uni lost of the last Gaga album. Apple, Uni and U2 will never, ever acknowledge how much they were paid, so just stop it.

  17. Realist

    As with everything in life this all depends on your perspective. Viewed on a macro level this type of marketing stunt is harmful to the wider battle of assigning ‘music’ a value in the minds of consumers and politicians who ultimately decide the copyright industries fate. However, on a micro level it is a smart move by a business savvy band/label who know how to extract value short term value for themselves.
    The upshot of this type of activity is the 1%’s keep getting richer by discovering new ways to sell the old whilst the rest of the 99% struggle on.
    It all points to the same problem for the beleaguered music industry – how to speak with one consistent voice. Or to use an old maxim, United we stand divided we fall. For bleeding heart liberals like U2 you would have thought this would have come as second nature. Or am I being naive?

  18. Foster hagey

    You know how you can tell U2 is hurting the music business?

    Their music sucks.

    No one is has anything to say about the music itself. Sure they know about the stunt with Apple, but no one has shit to say about the music itself.

  19. Anonymous

    “it alienates the majority of people who don’t use iTunes”

    No, it caters for the millions of music lovers who use iTunes.

    And that makes sense! Physical is going away, unless you’re Japanese, and artists don’t make money from streaming. That leaves us with iTunes.

    iTunes users are the most important consumers in the world — to artists and to Apple.

  20. anonymous

    Let’s face it…it’s all about touring. That’s where the money is. U2 reached 500 mm iTunes users with international attention in 5 seconds. With that staggering reach, everyone will soon know they are touring. Love it or hate it, any press is good press. U2 is a global brand and now everyone is talking about them, again. As far as the people who feel used and shamed because U2 raped their iTunes account, you should listen and stop fucking whining.
    If you don’t know the band, do your catalog homework and it may change your life. If you know the band, you know what I’m talking about.

  21. Jason

    I disagree with most of this. U2 didn’t give away the album for free. Apple paid them handsomely. If the U2 catalogue went up 868% then that is a success. Yes the dollar amount isn’t much on the old U2 albums sales. But they weren’t much anyway. 868% is still a huge increase. The whole point of Apple doing this isn’t to alienate the 60% that don’t use iTunes. It’s to try to get that 60% interested and possibly downloading iTunes and giving it a try. Not just for music, but for everything Apple has invested in iTunes. Maybe someone who downloads iTunes to get the U2 album will also rent a movie or download an app. Or buy a tv show. Or download a text book. And more than likely that U2 fan won’t delete the iTunes software from their computer after they’ve downloaded the U2 album and burned it to a cd. And for those who already use iTunes and are a U2 fan will now have even more brand loyalty to Apple.

  22. zog

    Pay back time for U2 , Iovine and Beats for putting iTunes and Apple in the music business, “Bravo” to all well
    done. The music business has always been about promotion and publicity so for U2, Apple , Universal in the long term it served its purpose for the next album and world tour and it bought iTunes back in the publics mind.

  23. Dean G. Hill

    There was a time when an album launch was an Event, and not just an electronic whimper in your Inbox

    Come on U2 make an effort …

    Expecting great things from ‘Songs of Experience’

    Deano in Gloucester Docks Luvverz

    Ws! dot StreamiX dot Org

  24. chartyman

    All very interesting, but U2 made their money and became famous using the “old model”. (I.e. via Record Company backing etc.). We’ve yet to see any significant artist emerge without using traditional outlets and without any record company support .

  25. Greg Levine

    I believe in the end this conversation has missed larger points than the alleged devaluation of music, the potential criminality of all iTunes users getting this album added to their playlist to download, the alleged cost of the deal itself, on and on….

    Let’s instead focus (in my opinion) on the core truth of this conversation…..for U2, this collaboration with Apple was NOT about sales, it was also NOT about cash in the immediate sense. This is the band who famously after releasing “All You Can’t Leave Behind” in 2001 claimed they were “re-applying for the biggest band in the world status”.

    U2, at this stage in their career, care about people talking about their new music. I believe that they are immensely proud of the new material and like all artists they want people to hear it and judge them for their musical merits (oh by the way, I’ll mention the songs….it’s “ok” as a collection). But I think this deal was all about getting their name back into everyone’s mouth for as long as possible with the biggest splash possible.

    U2 are a BUSINESS as much as a BAND. Just scroll up and look at how many of you are talking about this (positively and negatively). You’re TALKING about U2. That’s what they were after. It’s pure unadulterated promotion. U2 do NOT need any more cash. But they sure want to get paid as anyone that has worked that long to establish themselves would. They KNOW they are going to make their money on the road. Look back at their tours. All of them are monster money makers and hold numerous records for their time frame (U2 360 anyone? Largest tour ever mounted, most money made, most people attended, etc).

    For Apple, this collaboration was about leveraging one of the biggest names in music to remind consumers that iTunes is still there, still viable, and still very much the legal digital alternative to downloading music. This deal served a purpose to do that and to also kick start some life back into the declining download numbers that iTunes has showed for the last 2 years or so.

    This was a mutual scratching of the backs by two of the biggest names on the planet looking to each get something out of equation.

  26. Sean Suydam

    While I agree that the stunt was a huge failure, this article seems like someone bitching about people not going to record stores anymore…

    That’s already a thing…

  27. Jeff Kent

    iTunes customers who don’t want the U2 album should be able to trade it in for any other album on iTunes.

  28. David Green

    No, Sean, this article demonstrates the bands utter and total disregard for their fans and customers in the UK. They have banked the cheque and do not give a shit what happens next, whether their fans hear the album of just hear the sound on Bono’s new private jet! Apple publicly hanging out with this team will not do their PR much good at all. Hope that watch is good….

    • There is something...

      You’ll have to explain how the fans get disregarded here… I don’t car much about U2, but if a band I like dropped an album on my iTunes, I would love it. Some people here get mad for nothing it seems…

  29. Simon Nate Parker

    This is the most bullshit argument going. And about the stunt being a ‘failure’; Apple paid $100m for those albums, far more than any U2 album would ever have grossed. Hardly a failure. This was about nothing more than lining bono and co’s pockets. No one was waiting for another U2 album, and bono fucking knows it.

  30. Keal Franklin

    They can do whatever they want. They paid their dues. They owe us nothing!

  31. Cord Pereira

    Anyone who says this was a failure is in left field. What a deal. U2 has learned how to leverage their music not sell it. The sooner that music sales totally evaporate the better, because artists can begin marketing their music in more dynamic ways that blow away album and single sales and streaming royalties. Let it to. Wake up to artists operating as media companies. Why does anyone give a crap about sales any more. Those days are over and it’s time to focus on ways that artists can make bigger money – even local artists.

  32. Chris Chambers

    This was all about publicity and it worked. Quite literally millions of people have now heard of U2 who never heard of then before. Well done for U2 & Apple for trying something new.

  33. Shane Tierney

    Explain to me how 200m impressions and 33m engagements on an album these days is a “huge failure”. Not to mention a 100m check.

  34. Nadir Omowale

    The writer seems most upset about local record stores who got fewer sales and UK fans who have to pay for the record because they don’t have iTunes… neither of which are Apple’s problem, right?

  35. Darrin Crawford

    It’s exactly like this kids….this is the world we live in…whether good for all involved or not. I had no idea a new U2 album was coming out. The idea of U2 getting a fortune from an album that will be uploaded (to the consumer) for free is cool. If I was a massive or even mediocre fan of U2 I would have wanted a Vinyl or CD copy…which I will get sooner or later if I like the album. However, I am NOT a fan of them (these days). Does it ruin business deals for other artists?? Absolutely NOT. If we were back in the 70’s and we had social media without the ability to download we would have gone crazy for this. Imagine EMI or Columbia sending a free LP to all households (postage paid) .Who wants to watch Top Of The Pops or Midnight Special or dare I say “radio” to just “happen to catch” my fav artists new contribution? Not me…I would have went social media. BUT in the end?? We(the audience) must LIKE the music. Yes, I know your struggling with that concept and maybe you’re saying you have what it takes. Also, yes, back in the day record companies were setup to give you a recording contract, new equipment…basically it was a “loan”. Which is still technically the way record companies negotiate today but it’s not wrong. Technology (recording gear,computers, keyboards, software gear simulations, guitars, drums). Back then you would have to beg your parents for a guitar or a piano or a drum kit. Nowadays you have to beg for a new iPhone. Instruments and recording gear with computers are a nothing of today. Imagine if the Beatles had our technology??There are loads of people out there with the latest 48 track …tube mics, vocal manipulation software, greatest studio monitors and there is ton of music that sounds like shit. I don’t just mean recording wise…the songwriting has gone downhill. So if I could speak as the second person, we (the record company) pay you (the artist) BUT you better deliver. Was it better/easier for artists back then? YES! Is it better/easier now? NO! However, if I were a record company and I wanted to market you without any artistic freedom (because unfortunately kids…THAT is the reality) I would need “something”…something that says ok Artist…I will trust you but you must provide product, your looks, your songwriting, your Miley Cyrus hair, your catchy tune. Unfortunately, it’s a business. Having said all this I do not like the new U2 album part from 2 tracks. Me as a consumer and lover of music I am very very happy this was thrown upon me….for free in fact. Now, I don’t have to pay for it. AND I CAN delete it. Imagine if breakthrough albums…Sgt Pepper, Are You Experienced, Dark Side Of The Moon, Goodbye Yellow Brick Road, Thriller, Rumours. Joshua Tree, Syncronicity…imagine for one second this was forced upon you…for free in fact.??? THEN there would be an issue. However, we bought our Vinyl, bought our CD’s and remastered on top of those. WE PAID. ..and Paid more..and MORE!!! How the artist got reimbursed meant nothing to us. Still doesn’t. These days we (well they) download so in my view they are keeping up with the times. Or the common street lingo is a new business modelling. Is this method of getting music out to the public wrong? Absolutely not. Consider Apple your Radio. THEY are one of the top radio stations forcing music down your throat these days. Having said all this at the end of the day I have to “like” or love” the music. So, it’s not without shame that I say yes…Apple/U2?? Give it to me for free…because unfortunately music these days is very very disposable and computerized (even more-so recording techniques) so YOU (the Artist) had better get a bunch of so called mini producers (the music buying public) and give me something for free (like radio was) so I can purchase your music/art. I don’t care if you’re struggling. Just because you’re a struggling artist doesn’t mean you get a free handout. If we were back in the 60’s or 70’s I would say the exact same thing but unfortunately your art wasn’t exposed back then and maybe you could have been amongst the elite for songwriting or performer. You know what I did recently?? I Youtube’d videos called…Hey ..What are you listening to (insert your major city)?? I found by doing that I was hip to the trends and the most common and also obscure artists. THAT was for free and it enticed me to buy 6 CD’s. Unfortunately 4 out of 6 on the while totality of an album i liked. BUT I am happy that I was at least exposed. So people?? Stop whining…start playing and composing and give the mass media (US) some music we like. NOT computerized music. Just some great songs. Email it, have it pirated or send it to Apple. If it sucks?? Oh well…these days you need to prove yourself more intensely. If you don’t want to work for your art?? You need to look at another career. Who knows…you may have someone actually liking your music even in the pirated forum BUT they may turn around and tell your friends or relatives how great this album is and they will go out and purchase it. If you are a music lover or nor not..if it’s that good it WILL be purchased. So please stop slamming U2 or Apple or whoever the big leagues are today. Everyone is just trying to survive…unfortunately these days artists have to work much harder. So get out there and WORK for your passion and stop looking for handouts! …Thank you. Darrin

    • FarePlay

      Please use paragraphs.

      I’d be interested to read what you have to say, but will not given the daunting,


  36. Jason Henderson

    I disagree with most of this. U2 didn’t give away the album for free. Apple paid them handsomely. If the U2 catalogue went up 868% then that is a success. Yes the dollar amount isn’t much on the old U2 albums sales. But they weren’t much anyway. 868% is still a huge increase. The whole point of Apple doing this isn’t to alienate the 60% that don’t use iTunes. It’s to try to get that 60% interested and possibly downloading iTunes and giving it a try. Not just for music, but for everything Apple has invested in iTunes. Maybe someone who downloads iTunes to get the U2 album will also rent a movie or download an app. Or buy a tv show. Or download a text book. And more than likely that U2 fan won’t delete the iTunes software from their computer after they’ve downloaded the U2 album and burned it to a cd. And for those who already use iTunes and are a U2 fan will now have even more brand loyalty to Apple.

  37. Daniel

    It looks like apple win here!

    They get 60% of U2 fans who want the album, signing up (300 million) on iTunes, the world where personal data is very valuable, ask Facebook.

    This is an investment to gain more iTunes users, obviously and will get repeated as the 60% in question will now get data sold to bankers, advertisers etc.. And around 30% may stick around and buy stuff, long term they cash in again and raise share value due to an increase in users.

    You may find U2 own shares at some level or had it offered, they cash in again as well.

    This is big busy and they really don’t care about the little people, just big numbers that benefit the grow rate of Apple.

    My 2 cents worth

    • Anonymous

      “they really don’t care about the little people”

      Perhaps not — but does it matter? A success for iTunes is a success for you (assuming you’re an artist).

      This is not Google trying to screw you, after all. This is Apple drawing attention to the store where you sell your music.

      Worse things could happen…

      • Anonymous

        “they really don’t care about the little people”

        Perhaps not — but does it matter? A success for iTunes is a success for you (assuming you’re an artist).

        This is not Google trying to screw you, after all. This is Apple drawing attention to the store where you sell your music.

        Worse things could happen…

        Its going back to a commissioned system perhaps…

        Where i sell my music?

        Not so much, more like where i have my music available to be purchased but really once i make it available to these stores, all it takes is one person buying it, or even just one employee etc. taking it and then legally sharing it around and im fucked right out of everything…

        I need to be paid to give my music away for free, or whatever it is… I see no other thing to do but shut it all down, shelve all new music, and look elsewhere to make money…

        Maybe pick it back up when im 60 or something, strum a guitar free for people once ive made some fucking money somehwere…

        • Anonymous

          and all that of course overlooks the point that i personally cannot even make a rough copy of a song and put it on my laptop to listen to without people stealing it…

          If i say i need to have my studio in a cave with zero internet access anywhere would that make me a terrorist or tinfoil hat wearer?

          its not likely a problem everyone deals with, but its my reality, and i cant compete, and i cant make money, and while i just released an album a few months ago which is what people should be going at and talking about, instead they are already going at me about something i havent even finished or released and they are talking about that and asking questions about it picking lyrics about it wanting to know this and that…


          i havent even released the fucking thing yet, no one is even supposed to know it exists beyond the few things ive mentioned, but to already see it being stolen, fuck man, what a let down, what a full parade rain air out of the sails let down…

          They the greatest ever most famous around banking millies and billies, and they stealing from me and they going at me???


          Of course i dont feel at all protected as a citizen here, of course i give a fuck less about new laws to protect me, cause they wont and cause im getting the royal fuck job here, the massive rape job and ive gotten zero help to stop it and not one fucking person out there sees a way to utilize it and take advantage of it to make money….

          So what other play do i have???


  38. Rockstream

    There are three valid responses to Apple’s promotion: (1) “I like the U2 album and I am glad Apple gave it to me” or (2) “I don’t like, or don’t care about, the U2 album so I removed it from iTunes” or (3) “I like the U2 album but I removed it from iTunes because I would rather stream it on Beats Music.” All the rest is noise. Get over it.

      • Anonymous


        Dont you see how pose a couple simple questions to these kinds of people and then its just fucking CRICKETS!!!!!

        Crickets man, all the time all over the place, just the silence is deafening loud its incredible…..

        Youll be a rotting corpse one day, eaten by organisms living within you right now as you read this, hopefully all your choices will end with that final breath you take, but who knows eh…


  39. LondonMusicMapp

    Horribly exposed on their current deal with U2, through a little deft negotiating Universal have been able to avoid all the hard work and uncertainty of manufacturing and promoting and marketing a weak album to a disinterested world and have achieved a nice pay day for themselves, Apple and the band. The fact that by doing so they have pissed off their other retail partners (partners who are in a permanent state of pissed) and alienated a few people who probably wouldn’t have bought the album probably doesn’t worry either band or label too much
    Another album crossed off the deal, all over and done with in the third Qtr of the year which always has a weak release schedule…

  40. metoo

    i’m a mild U2 fan, more of a dangermouse fan, & downloaded the album only because it was free. maybe would have purchased individual tracks.

    i liked the first track, & listened through once. haven’t listened since tho.

    I’d like to see stats as to how many owners are listening how many times. That’s a new form of chart that can exist now with the cloud: listener retention. X number of people listened to the album Y times.

    also not hearing much talk about the album itself outside of industry gossip.

  41. terry wilson

    After reading all posts today, its becoming easier and easier to see why the business is in such dis-repair….”look what they done to my song ma”…….since there is no business model, the one you come up with for you is the one you use………………

    • Anonymous

      oh the dirty lies…. c’mon, hold on now, my hearts on fire….

      You can let Ian know it isnt burning a hole in the night, much simpler and crazier then that…




    I don’t have i tunes….I still buy physicals discs or MP3’s and listen with Zune…..I am just pissed that I can’t at least BUY the new album NOW. We should not have to wait so long to be able to purchase.

  43. Willis

    Yeah, whatever. Don’t blame Apple for doing this deal. Don’t blame consumers for supporting a company that clearly uses/abuses the music industry (iTunes = wolf in sheep’s clothing). Blame the artist who took the deal. For shame DMN, for shame.

  44. Marc

    I think this entire discussion about U2 is amazing..

    The people that complain about the popup in their purchased albums in iTunes, that simply notifies them that you can get U2’s new album for free and start acting as if U2 has forcefuly and deviously invaded their sacred privacy are just morons, a bunch of whining little cry babies…
    Each day they probably get spammed. Perhaps as a result from all the porn they watched, or downloads from shady websites. Or spam reminding them every day how they can enlarge their penis, or people asking them to provide their bank account so that they can give them millions of dollars.
    No problem here, it’s all good. But a notification from U2 in iTunes……OMG!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!.
    They’re self rightheous haters, who love to hate on everything that has the name U2 or Bono in it and will do so every chance they get. I even read a couple of comments from people saying they feel raped by U2.
    Just pathetic.

    And than the comments from people saying “Yeah they say that it’s a free album, but it’s really not because they made a shady deal with Apple” So what? Apple bought 500 million licences at 0,20 cents each so that they can offer the album for free to all their users.

    U2 alienated those fans who dont have iTunes
    Why? If you’re a fan and don’t have iTunes, you can get it but if you don’t want to use it you could listen to or download the album on YouTUbe and various other websites an hour after it was available in iTunes.

    U2 releasing a free album harms the industry and is the same as piracy.
    Nonsense. But lets say that it is the same as piracy.
    Ever since the release of Napster in 1999 its been possible to download all music for free and they said it would ruin the industry. It hasn’t. Sure profits weren’t as high as before but what it showed is that even though you can download everything you want for free, fans and people who want to support an artist will still buy their music. Nothing much has changed, beginning artists always had to struggle to get themselves heard and work hard to make it and those who made it big don’t seem to have suffered a lot from piracy either, they’re still multi millionaires that can still do almost anything they want..

    U2 disappoint fans who like to go to a physical store and buy the record.
    Really? Some people are disappointed by the fact they can listen to the album for free before it goes on sale on the 13th of october??? Amazing.

    And I can go on, but what annoys me the most is that Muse, or almost any other band most likely would have been applauded fo ther creativity and forward thnking if they did the same thing. .

  45. mstrmayo

    they started with 500 pounds each..to try to become a band..they invested all,and much to their surprise,they became a band..a successful band,a few records later,they changed the more punk rock style..people hated them doing such..but they gained new fans..not having money,just taking risks because they always wanted to do new things..explore themselves..if you could not follow such..well..find another band you like..Bono’s words..
    finally they had some money,they spend it in a movie..who was waiting on such?..well,their fans..so they spend all their hard earned money in a movie,about the tour..just for those fans..and they,they started all over..new dreams..another risk

    meanwhile,after each new record,people missed the ”old” U2..saying the album before the last one was far better,and continuing doing so after each new record…meanwhile,u2 was spending a whole lot of their money to give fans the best show on earth,getting the newest possibilities on stage..creating jobs ,to make it possible,having 500 workers who earned their paycheck,and so many more that were involved..they had the money,they invested in something that ended up cheap so other artist could use it as well..a big screen..who goes without it these days….but they did spend all their money,for their fans
    taking risks,could well be that nobody showed up..this big money they invested was always before they earned it back.and they always had negative reactions of so called criticals….and they earned it back..750 million with their last tour,they always took risks to lose it all…..and now,with this deal..all their old records in the charts..and 200 million paid beforehand,for this last album..Artist,who benefits from it as well…companies,like Apple’s Itunes..the whole freaking industry..and yet…..you still have morons,and stupid people.who respond was a bit too soon..like this fellow above..Paul..i.think he knows that nobody of the industry will take him serious.. forever..
    you’re in good company though..Mam Osbourne..saying the same thing,while she was selling out her sick husband ,gaining some millions she like to have..and spend..

    anyway,since the last 10 years after investing and investing,they have money..enough money
    money people gave to them in exchange of what they gave to their fans..

    failure..maybe..so far..82 million people downloaded the album..hearing songs of it..
    would never have happened with a regular sale..
    like i said.all there albums in various charts..going into a top ten of 40 countries.
    since that ”commercial act”
    so they took another risk,for another change of failure..it clearly is a success.
    and listening to the songs a bit more..there are 9 jewels on that album…
    not bad..but we only hear such after their next album..
    which people will hate already….stating that everything before was much better.
    U2 is losing it,nobody is waiting on it etc…well,they are the biggest success ever in history…
    and just maybe smart,it is possible,to listen to Bono words..go find your own band…and buy those albums.
    not a problem if you don’t want to listen,buy,visit a concert..of U2

    haters,what bright idea’s did we hear from those people..btw.

  46. Scot

    I’m still waiting you to prove but what they did damaged music industry. It would seem since they’ve sold 26 million copies online it hasn’t hurt them any or anybody else for that matter. Eyes