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U2 teams up with Apple


SHERRYLYN CLARKE, [email protected]

U2 teams up with Apple

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Since U2 stunned the music world by delivering a surprise album at Apple’s iPhone 6 unveiling and making it available to a half-billion iTunes users for free, they’ve gotten an avalanche of publicity.

But who’s listening to it? The picture started to become clearer when Apple said yesterday that 33 million users downloaded or streamed Songs of Innocence in the first six days of its release.

Apple says that’s a record, but for U2’s manager, Guy Oseary, the numbers weren’t really the point: The album will live on in users’ iCloud, and the band envisions new listeners accessing it for the first time for years to come.

“We’re quite happy that seven per cent of the planet has this album, and they can enjoy it at their leisure,” Oseary said.

The Rock and Roll Hall of Famers’ move was hotly debated within the industry as people tried to assess whether it was another stroke of genius from a band that has been a top-selling juggernaut for decades or a ploy by an aging group trying to make a splash in a landscape that has vastly changed since it released its last album in 2009.

Even though that album went platinum, its sales were a bit of a disappointment for the band.

Back then, frontman Bono told The Associated Press, “We felt that the ‘album’ is almost an extinct species, and we (tried to) create a mood and feeling, and a beginning, middle and an end. And I suppose we’ve made a work that is a bit challenging for people who have grown up on a diet of pop stars.”

That diet has gotten even more extreme since then, with album sales continuing to plummet industrywide, singles dominating and streaming services including Spotify and even iTunes helping to diminish the impact of a cohesive art form album.

So what is U2 trying to achieve with its latest Apple alliance? Oseary said the band achieved one goal: keeping the integrity of Songs intact by releasing it as an album. As far as U2’s larger business goals?

“I don’t expect everyone to get everything now,” Oseary said. “Maybe in a few years things will start making sense or they won’t. But that’s not our job. Our job is to make sure the music is in as many hands as possible. This was an incredible opportunity to do that.”

U2 joined Jay Z, Beyonce and a growing number of artists who are working out exclusive corporate deals and employing guerrilla ad campaigns rather than moving the album through the typical marketing plan of singles release and slow build to launch date.

But there may be penalties to pay later if physical retailers refuse to stock the album, as Target did when Beyonce surprise-dropped her self-titled LP exclusively on iTunes last December for a week (it was still a top-seller worldwide).

And there are still lots of questions. Will fans now buy a physical copy, released Oct. 14? Will the band lose some of its cool? Even the unflappable Jay Z suffered backlash when the app he and Samsung used to distribute his album to one million customers catalogued user information, and there have already been complaints from some who didn’t want a U2 album on their cloud – even as a gift.

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