I may be late to the party on this but maybe I don’t have any Apple products nor had I been educated in Myhrketing when U2 released their album, “Songs of Innocence” for free in collaboration with Tim Cook and Apple in September 2014. To U2, Apple, and my surprise the Apple public spurned this “free gift” that appeared on 500 million iTunes accounts. People demanded that the album be removed and in some extreme circumstances demanded entirely new devices. Apple was planning on making the album free for the 1st five years but was forced to create a tool for the public to remove the album. The fervor led to Bono, U2’s font man apologizing for his intentions.
There are many reasons for this disconnect. The first is that most people do not have the same taste in music as Tim Cook. Where Apple thought it was a gift, many thought it was punishment to listen to U2. The younger users may not know U2 while other may feel they are playing in faded glory. The second is possibly the vocal minority having more influence than the silent majority. The third reason is that it is an overreach by Apple to force music to an audience. Part of the process of art is to allow the market to support the artists and their work; not to have a corporation control the public’s art catalog without permission. Music and art is a very personal experience and Apple and U2 didn’t seem to understand that.
This leads to Myhrketing, understanding the consumer not product, and permission based marketing. The box at the end of the Apple agreement that everyone clicks may have given Apple the permission to provide the public with new music; along with other binding contractual terms. However, additional notifications and permission request prior to special occasions will aid acceptance and retention of the message, product, or goal. Apple did not do this and people were shocked that a company they like and trust would “spam” them; all be it expensive and to some valuable spam. U2 got caught up the belief their latest album must get to the people and be heard. Thinking their music is of quality and genre that every Apple user would want made them forget about the consumer. Tim Cook seconded this belief with his view of U2’s music and not his Apple customers. Jay-Z and Samsung did something similar a few months prior to U2 and Apple. Jay-Z’s “Magna Carta Holy Grail” had about as much acclaim as U2’s album but there wasn’t the backlash that U2 and Apple felt. This is because an App had to be downloaded first. Although Samsung did not directly ask each customer if they would like the album, they made the App available and downloading it was a form of permission. Samsung also limited it to the first 1 million downloads. This segmented to market into the people that truly wanted it. Recommending and making music available is far different than forced mass distribution.
This appeared to be a $100 million flop for Apple although there is still buzz about this stunt a half a year later. This was technically the largest album release of all time, topping “Magna Carta Holy Grail,” and will probably never be surpassed. Finally the noise from the summer has quieted down. Initially, Apple claimed that 33 million users experienced the album. That number climbed to 81 million in October. According to a study by Kantar of more than 2,500 iOS users, more than twice as many iOS users listened to U2 on their devices in January as the next most popular artist, Taylor Swift.
Artists are not businesses and do not need to focus on the customer to create art. However, based on how their latest album was received and sales from “No Line on the Horizon,” I’d recommend sticking to playing Joshua Tree and Achtung Baby on this upcoming tour.