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Bono apologises for putting that free U2 album on your iPhone

By | Published on Monday 24 October 2022


Bono has apologised for putting that U2 album on your iPhone that time. Yeah, that was in 2014, mate. Bit late really. Although I suppose, it’s only now that he’s got around to writing a book where he can make a full and frank “mea culpa”.

For anyone who doesn’t remember this little episode, eight long years ago Apple held a press conference to announce the Apple Watch and the iPhone 6. And, as a fun bonus, it also announced that all iTunes customers would be getting the new U2 album, ‘Songs Of Innocence’, added to their music libraries completely free of charge.

This move proved controversial. Lots of people, it turned out, didn’t actually want a U2 album in their music libraries – free or otherwise. Actually, a lot of iTunes users were pretty miffed that these songs suddenly started playing without warning when they shuffled their music.

Other musicians criticised the move too. Oh, and the retailers weren’t happy either. Ultimately, the backlash was so strong that Apple had to launch a new app that would permanently delete the album from people’s libraries.

At the time, Bono did make a fairly sarcastic apology in a Facebook Q&A with fans, but over time he seems to have become aware of just how big a misstep that whole thing was.

In an excerpt from his new memoir, ‘Surrender: 40 Songs, One Story’, published by the Guardian, he writes: “I take full responsibility … I’d thought if we could just put our music within reach of people, they might choose to reach out toward it. Not quite”.

“As one social media wisecracker put it”, he notes, “‘Woke up this morning to find Bono in my kitchen, drinking my coffee, wearing my dressing gown, reading my paper’. Or, less kind, ‘The free U2 album is overpriced’. Mea culpa”.

“At first I thought this was just an internet squall”, he goes on. “We were Santa Claus and we’d knocked a few bricks out as we went down the chimney with our bag of songs. But quite quickly we realised we’d bumped into a serious discussion about the access of big tech to our lives”.

“The part of me that will always be punk rock thought this was exactly what the Clash would do”, he muses. “Subversive. But subversive is hard to claim when you’re working with a company that’s about to be the biggest on Earth”.

Apple CEO Tim Cook, he says, had actually expressed reservations about the plan when Bono brought it to him, but was quite nice about it all when it went wrong.

“For all the custard pies it brought Apple – who swiftly provided a way to delete the album – Tim Cook never blinked”, says Bono. “’You talked us into an experiment’, he said. ‘We ran with it. It may not have worked, but we have to experiment, because the music business in its present form is not working for everyone’”.

“We’d learned a lesson”, confirms Bono, “but we’d have to be careful where we would tread for some time. It was not just a banana skin. It was a landmine”.