Bono has apologised for U2’s infamous iTunes stunt.
The Irish band managed to cause a global uproar, when digital copies of their 2014 album ‘Songs Of Innocence’ popped up on every iTunes account in the world.
Intended as a gift, the move backfired, and probably garnered U2 the worst headlines – and certainly some of the most savage reviews – of their 45 year career.
In his new book Surrender: 40 Songs, One Story frontman Bono reflects on the conversations surrounding the move, and the aftermath. The Guardian publish the extra in full, which opens with Bono sitting down with iTunes boss Tim Cook.
He writes: “I think you pay us for it and then you give it away free, as a gift to people. Wouldn’t that be wonderful?’”
The CEO was seemingly sceptical of the move, citing a desire to ensure musicians were paid for their output. “Tim Cook raised an eyebrow. ‘You mean we pay for the album and then just distribute it?’ I said, ‘Yeah, like when Netflix buys the movie and gives it away to subscribers.’ Tim looked at me as if I was explaining the alphabet to an English professor. ‘But we’re not a subscription organisation…’ ‘Not yet,’ I said. ‘Let ours be the first.’ Tim was not convinced. ‘There’s something not right about giving your art away for free,’ he said. ‘And this is just to people who like U2?’”
“‘Well,’ I replied, ‘I think we should give it away to everybody,’” the excerpt continues. “It’s their choice whether they want to listen to it.’”
The release didn’t quite go as planned – the backlash spread across social media, with the memoir finding a contrite Bono taking “full responsibility” for the negative headlines.
“As one social media wisecracker put it, ‘Woke up this morning to find Bono in my kitchen, drinking my coffee, wearing my dressing gown, reading my paper.’ Or, less kind, ‘The free U2 album is overpriced.’ Mea Culpa,” Bono said of the reaction at the time. “If just getting our music to people who like our music was the idea, that was a good idea. But if the idea was getting our music to people who might not have had a remote interest in our music, maybe there might be some pushback.
“At first I thought this was just an internet squall, but quickly realised we’d bumped into a serious discussion about big tech. I take full responsibility. Not Guy O, not Edge, not Adam, not Larry, not Tim Cook, not Eddy Cue. I’d thought if we could just put our music within reach of people, they might choose to reach out toward it. Not quite.”
Surrender: 40 Songs, One Story will be released on November 1st.