U2 free album on iTunes (image 001)

The controversial U2 album ‘Songs of Innocence’ has been downloaded nearly 30 million times since Apple announced it would be available to iTunes users for free last month. In a statement to Billboard on Thursday, senior VP Eddy Cue said that the album had racked up 26 million ‘complete downloads’ since its September 9 debut.

Cue adds that over 81 million Apple customers have experienced Songs of Innocence within the last month—a number that includes Beats Music, iTunes, and iTunes Radio streams. “To help put this into perspective,” Cue says, “prior to this, a total of 14 million customers had purchased music from U2 since iTunes opened in 2003.”

Billboard was also able to get a statement from U2, who said “Apple is a tech company fighting to get musicians paid. The idea that they wanted to make a gift to the very people that actually purchase music is both beautiful and poetic, and for that we are very grateful.” The pair are already rumored to be working on another new project.

Despite early criticism from users, who felt that Apple forced them to download something without their permission, it appears that in the end, the Songs of Innocence giveaway was a success. A physical deluxe edition of the album, which features 10 additional bonus tracks (unavailable on iTunes), will hit retail shelves on October 16.

[Billboard]