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U2 and Apple’s Misguided Generosity
If you’re looking for the perfect holiday gift, don’t do what Apple did.
In 2014, Apple hosted its annual fall event and unveiled the iPhone 6. To drum up buzz for iTunes amid the rise of music streaming services, CEO Tim Cook welcomed U2 to perform a new single from their surprise new album Songs of Innocence.
Moments later, the band and Cook announced that the entire album would be automatically added to millions of iTunes users’ libraries for free – whether they liked it or not.
“To celebrate the ten-year anniversary of our iPod commercial, [Apple] bought it as a gift to give to all their music customers,”
-U2 lead singer Bono wrote in a letter to fans.
iTunes users saw the move as anything but innocent. Media outlets and others in the tech industry called the album giveaway “tone deaf” and “devious.” Apple even had to release instructions on how to remove the album from iTunes libraries.
A Gift Not Worth Giving
Ultimately, it was Apple that incurred the real loss. Apple paid U2 and its label Universal Music an unspecified blanket royalty fee and committed to a marketing campaign for the band worth up to $100 million in order to release the album for free.
Apple and U2 clearly saw the album as a gift. Users saw it more as spam or any other unwanted marketing material – free or not.
From gated content to conference SWAG, it’s an important consideration any time organizations give something away in exchange for an audience’s attention or personal information.
In the end, Bono apologized for the stunt. “I had this beautiful idea, but [we] got carried away with ourselves.”