New U2 Album FREE. What Is Going On Here?

Is giving away "Songs of Innocence" a middle finger to the record industry or a savvy promo move by U2?
Author:
Publish date:

Two interesting things happened almost simultaneously yesterday, September 9, 2014.

One was that I found a sad, but brilliant article on the state of the recording industry to share with gp.com readers. You can view it here.

The other was that U2 bonded itself with the excitement of Apple's new iPhones and Apple Watch announcement by giving away its new album, Songs of Innocence, to all iTunes users.

"From the very beginning U2 have always wanted our music to reach as many people as possible, the clue is in our name I suppose — so today is kind of mind-blowing to us," said Bono at Apple CEO Tim Cook's launch event in California. "The most personal album we've written could be shared with half a billion people by hitting Send. If only songwriting was that easy. It's exciting and humbling to think that people who don't know U2 or listen to rock music for that matter might check us out. Working with Apple is always a blast. They only want to do things that haven't been done before — that's a thrill to be part of." 

Is there some bizarre whimsical convergence-in-the-galaxy coincidence here?

On one level, we can assume that all the members of U2 are fabulously wealthy and no longer fret much about mundane things such as record sales. After all, by letting a huge market of music consumers on iTunes grab the album for free, the band —and its record label Universal — can't expect tons of CD sales or downloads in the near future. In fact, the album's official release date of October 13, 2014 will probably be a near-forgotten non-event for even U2 fans.

How does a band do business this way?

Well, apparently, if you're a band with the juice of a U2, it's easy — if you're smart, forward-thinking, and willing to unbuckle the conventional record-biz-revenue ties.

We can place a bet that U2 is totally aware of the crumpling record industry, and, as a result, very much "eyes open" about how many CDs and downloads they could expect to sell via a conventional release, promotion, tour campaign. Given the band's lofty stature, it probably makes sense to do something HUGE, garner the international attention of such an industry-changing strategy, and cut a "think different" deal that plays big on the world stage while also putting some possibly up-front bucks in those famous pockets, and, it seems, bringing Universal along for a bit of the ride.

You see, the BIG element in this deal is the fact that Apple paid an undisclosed lump sum to Universal in order to distribute the new album for free. There is also a massive-buck advertising campaign tied in with the new album's music. You can read the Wall Street Journal report on the whole matter here.

Risk? What risk?

If you're a big-enough band that a corporate entity wishes to align itself with you, it seems you can have your cake and eat it, too. A lot of cake.

What are YOUR thoughts. Comment below, or email me directly at mmolenda@musicplayer.com

Watch the Apple Event

RELATED