A possible 500 Million downloads with 33 million users having already made their presence felt and just over 2 million individual downloads (at the time of writing). Arguably the worlds biggest band's latest release could, theoretically, find its way onto enough iphones, iPads and iPods to cater for the aural guilty pleasures of the entire population of the EU. It could turn out to be a feat of epic proportions, of modern musical wizardry, a remarkable showcase of the Apple marketing machine at work as well as affirmation of U2s global standing, with one gaping flaw. A substantial proportion of those downloads weren't requested in the first place.
In their wisdom infinitum, the marketing geniuses (sarcastic double finger wag on each hand) from both camps have decided that, pre retail release, U2s latest opus, Songs Of Innocence, will be made freely available to any of us mere mortals who happen to hold the 'I gods' in almost as high esteem as the man himself, for a limited time of course. However, rather than putting them at the forefront of media goodwill (a la Mrs Shawn Carter) quite the reverse has happened. And to think, I always thought that U2 were quite cool (I come from Hip Hop stock, forgive me).
The artists and pundits have been queuing up to take pot shots with such bitey quotes as " This is a further and highly visible nail in the coffin of a sustainable music business from a band that continually waffles on about fairness and human values" or " When Apple drops U2 on your iPhone, it shatters the illusion that your iPhone just works on its own, which is deeply unsettling" or even " F%£π YOU BONO YOU OLD F%£π I DONT WANT YOU ON MY PHONE N!$$A B√¥€π STUPID GLASSES F%£π BONO" (although 15 minutes later Tyler, The Creator had tempered his views somewhat).
You see, its about the appearance of choice, the illusion that you are getting your musical fix anyway you see fit. Consciously we can frequent any store and online portal we choose. But buried deep beneath the fathoms of terms and conditions is the right for the big guns to circumvent what we perceive to be a basic freedom of choice, when it suits them. This latest case in point cost more than £62 million in subversion (aka payoff) fees. Only for Apple to not so much give away the album for free, as adjust our purchase histories to make it look like we bought an album we actually had no idea was being released, with no way (initially) to delete it from your purchase history. And you don't need to access special permissions via a separate link to delete any other iTunes album I can think of.
No one is going to convince me that Apple weren't secretly hoping that any negative resistance was going to be quickly swept under the proverbial carpet. And although I very much doubt that we will ever know the true figures there have been more than a few complaints regarding that very subject. I mean come on now Bono, you and your new fruity friends must surely have realised the one glaring factor in your all conquering masterplan.... we are not all U2 fans.
Beyonce may have bombarded us with as many videos as she had songs on her all powerful, self titled juggernaut but the option to buy was our own. Quite why Apple thought they good get away with a lack of the standard options for deletion, and have us all think that it was simply an oversight on their part, is a mystery to me. Yet with wall to wall boffins lining their office space I suspect that it isn't such a conundrum to them.
Marketing is obviously a necessary evil (I succumb to it all the time) but when all the cheesy slogans and clever rhetoric are said and done we are supposed to be able to make a choice. Apples actions have not only made U2 look even more sycophantic (and hypocritical now that I mention it) than they already did in some people eyes, but Apple themselves are no longer the stainless paragons of virtue in many minds either. They pride themselves on that clean, almost saintly, cut above the rest image and naïvely thought that the average music fan thought of U2 in the same regard.
Thanks to the imminent release of the IPhone 6 and 6 plus however, the affect on Apple will be inimal. Bono and chums I suspect, may have to live with the stigma a little longer.
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