Apple, a company whose aesthetic tastes have dominated the electronics industry for years, might regret its decision to force its customers to download the wheezing cacophony of a group of aging Irish rockers.
Earlier this week, Apple announced that it would give all 500 million iTunes customers U2’s latest album, Songs of Innocence, by auto-downloading it to their iTunes libraries. But what may have sounded like a good cross-promotional stunt in Apple’s marketing meetings quickly exploded into mayhem when the album began appearing unannounced on customers’ devices.
Apple fans who had carefully curated their music collections were confused and dismayed when U2 appeared, in poltergeist-like fashion, in their libraries.
Android got a few new customers.
And #teens just didn’t know what this “U2” thing was. (A 1D tribute band, maybe?)
Even by marketing-stunt standards, Apple’s U2 gambit has been divisive. Partly, it’s the mechanism by which the album appeared — auto-downloads are a fairly freaky thing, when you’re not expecting them, and Apple has never pushed third-party media to its users like this before. (Samsung, in contrast, gave Jay Z’s latest album to its customers, but required them to download it themselves.) And partly, it’s the choice of album itself. As my colleague Lindsay Zoladz put it in her Songs of Innocence review, “there is something delightfully silly, characteristically presumptuous, and just so U2 about the conjecture that 500 million people would like to drop what they’re doing on a Tuesday afternoon and listen to a new U2 album.”
It’s true that Apple’s wine-drinking, plane-flying user base probably overlaps with U2’s cool-dad core audience more than most bands. Still, 500 million people can’t all be expected to delight in the arrival of a rock album, no matter how bland and inoffensive it is. (And sure enough, explainers for how to delete Songs of Innocence from your iTunes library are already popping up.) Perhaps Apple should have consulted employee Dr. Dre before imposing its musical tastes on millions of ears.