Just Because It’s Free . . .

When it comes to music, we all go through phases. There are some phases that we look back on fondly, music genres that helped shape us into the people that we are today. And then there are those phases of which we would rather not be reminded. Unfortunately, as the latest Apple and U2 partnership showed, those regretful music phases are not something that can be removed easily today with digital music downloading!


Alongside the eagerly anticipated announcement of Apple’s iPhone 6 and Watch came the shocking news that U2’s newest album would be given away for free and automatically downloaded to all Apple iTunes accounts. With past global hits such as ‘Beautiful Day’, ‘With or Without You’ and ‘One’, it would be easy to think that this would be a move celebrated by listeners (or at least ignored in silence).

From the news coverage that has occurred across the world, it is now quite clear that the opposite happened. Annoyed iTunes users (who are not fans of U2) have taken to Twitter to protest this invasion of privacy marring their iTunes purchase history. Commentators have compared this move to internet piracy and devaluing the value of music. And even celebrities have jumped on the bandwagon stripping U2 of their musician status in favour of a more entrepreneurial outlook.

The effects are not all bad. U2 has become top of mind for music listeners across the world and has been a prominent topic of discussion in musical circles. They have certainly received a huge amount of publicity. But I’m not convinced that the phrase ‘All publicity is good publicity’ really suits this situation. Of course, people were talking about it but it hasn’t made them any more favourable towards the brand or encouraged significant sales of previous tracks.

Amid the significant customer protesting, Apple were forced to release a website dedicated to removing the album from iTunes accounts. Check out the website here.

The fact that this website was created shows the intensity of the backlash which has been received by Apple and is terribly concerning for the U2 brand. Would any artist really want a website dedicated to removing their music from potential listener’s accounts?

But it isn’t so much the music or the band that are the issue here – they are just automatically associated with the negative event. The automatic download is the catalyst for this outrage and the perceived privacy invasion will result in many people, who could have gained value from the U2 album, deleting it out of principle.

Apple have made music freely downloadable before. They just haven’t automatically added it to their customer’s downloads. There are no doubt many U2 fans out there who love the opportunity to secure the band’s thirteenth album without paying, but they are being drowned out by the internet hate.

The album still could have been released for free, but giving consumers the choice means that you remove the negative element. Social media wouldn’t have been overrun by negative comments about U2, news outlets would have covered it in a positive light (although probably not to the same extent!) and the hard core U2 fans would be heard expressing their appreciation for this gift rather than disappearing amongst all the damaging comments.