U2’s “free” album download cost Apple $100 million, other projects with U2 on the way


As people continue to freak out over Apple’s forced iTunes download of U2’s new album titled “Songs of Innocence,” the New York Times newspaper has learned from sources that the value of the arrangement between the iPhone maker and the aging Irish rock band is in the ballpark of $100 million.

“To release U2’s album free, Apple paid the band and Universal an unspecified fee as a blanket royalty and committed to a marketing campaign for the band worth up to $100 million, according to several people briefed on the deal,” writes NYT.

And according to the band’s manager Guy Oseary, the Cupertino firm has other U2-backed music related projects in the works.

This is in line with U2 leader Bono’s previous comment to Time insisting the arrangement between the band and Apple is a commercial one.

”We were paid,” Bono said, “I don’t believe in free music. Music is a sacrament”.

The album is available free of charge exclusively to the 500 million iTunes users in 119 countries through October 13. Beginning October 14, Universal will start selling the album at stores and make it available through streaming services like Spotify.

As part of the deal, U2 will also provide the soundtrack to Apple’s advertising campaign, with Bono’s comments alluding to this being a long-term partnership.

U2 manager Guy Oseary said in an interview with Billboard that the band is working “on other things” as well with Apple related to how music is heard and innovation.

“This is a long relationship,” he said.

iTunes Vice President of Content, Robert Kondrk, is ”leading that charge“, noted Oseary, teasing “a lot of things still to come that are really interesting”.

The manager hint that U2 are interested in helping revive the album format which has been under pressure ever since iTunes started selling 99-cent songs a decade ago.

U2 members, he goes one, want fans to ”support the art form of artwork and lyrics and video content and just get into their music in a much different way than an MP3 file”.

U2 free album on iTunes (image 004)

The exposure from the deal, The Wall Street Journal speculates, could help reinvigorate interest in the band’s “enormously lucrative back catalogue” comprised of thirteen studio albums, one live album and five compilations.

Total sales of all U2 albums have been pegged at $150 million, with the band’s last “No Line on the Horizon” album moving a modest five million copies.


Basically, Apple here bought a $100 million gift from U2 to give away to its customers. What blows my mind is that no one seems to want the album in their iTunes library, and most listeners seem to be loathing it outright.

I don’t mind it and am certainly not hating on Apple for giving me free music. On the other hand, I do empathize with folks who express deep dislike over Apple shoving the album down their throat.

“Don’t shove your music into people’s homes,” wrote the New Yorker’s Sasha Frere-Jones. “A U2 album that some would have taken seriously was instead turned into an album that seems as pointless as it probably is.”

U2 free album on iTunes (image 001)

Couldn’t agree more with Frere-Jones.

If you’re a fan of the Irish rock band, you can download the whole album free of charge to your mobile or desktop device, here’s how. In case U2 is not your cup of tea, follow Jake’s quick tip to remove the album from your ‘Purchased’ section in iTunes.

What are your feelings on the free U2 music deal and, especially with respect to Apple’s execution of the giveaway?

[The New York Times]