Bono takes the blame for the 2014 iTunes U2 album disaster

Posted:
in iPod + iTunes + AppleTV edited October 2022
U2 frontman Bono takes the blame for the ill-fated iTunes album giveaway of 2014, an extract from his memoir reveals, but while Apple took heat for the endeavor, CEO Tim Cook apparently wasn't fazed by the response at all.

Apple CEO Tim Cook with U2 in 2014
Apple CEO Tim Cook with U2 in 2014


Apple's gift of a free copy of the U2 album "Songs of Innocence" was seen as a massive blunder for the music-selling service, with complaints from many forcing Apple to come up with instructions to remove the album from user libraries.

In extracts from Bono's memoir "Surrender: 40 Songs, One Story" published in The Guardian, the rock frontman recounts meetings between the band and Apple executives in 2014. In the meeting, Bono spoke with manager Guy Oseary, Eddy Cue, Phil Schiller, and Tim Cook, with the suggestion of a giveaway being from Bono's side of the table.

"You want to give this music away free? But the whole point of what we're trying to do at Apple is to not give away music free. The point is to make sure musicians get paid," Bono was told.

Bono instead insisted that Apple should pay U2, but then give it away as a gift. "Wouldn't that be wonderful?," he added. When Cook pressed, Bono compared it to how "Netflix buys the movie and gives it away to subscribers."

"But we're not a subscription organization," Cook fired back, before Bono offered "Not yet. Let ours be the first."



Cook was apparently still skeptical about the deal, and asked further if this was just to those who liked U2. "I think we should give it away to everybody," Bono proposed, "I mean, it's their choice whether they want to listen to it."

On the reception the album had, Bono states he takes full responsibility. "Not Guy O, not Edge, not Adam, not Larry, not Tim Cook, not Eddy Cue." Bono believed that if the music was made available for listening, people "might choose to reach out toward it."

Bono has previously apologized for the incident, which saw automatic downloads of the album to millions of users, in the weeks after it occurred.

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

Bono takes a moment to commend Cook on his actions afterward. "You talked us into an experiment," the CEO said to the rockstar. "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."

Bono then points out the "probably instinctively conservative" leadership style of Cook, and that while he wanted to try and solve a problem, he was still ready to take responsibility.

The extract also discusses another Apple CEO interaction ten years prior, with Bono and Edge visiting Steve Jobs with Jimmy Iovine in tow. While U2 didn't do commercials, it was proposed that the band was a good fit for Apple's ad style at the time.

For remuneration, Jobs didn't think Apple had the budget such a band would expect. Bono countered by saying they just wanted to be in the commercial, however while the band wasn't looking for cash, they suggested a "symbolic amount" of Apple stock, though Jobs called it a "dealbreaker."

As an alternative, a customized U2 iPod in black and red was suggested, though Jobs insisted "You wouldn't want a black one. I can show you what it would look like, but you will not like it."

Later, after the band were shown the first version and found it favorable, design chief Jony Ive was invited to look at the device's design a second time. Eventually, the special edition iPod in red and black saw public release.

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Comments

  • Reply 1 of 26
    chasmchasm Posts: 3,382member
    FWIW: I appreciated the gift, and I thought it was a better album than some of their previous releases. However, I fully recognize that forcing it on everyone without consent was a terrible idea, and at least now I know who was responsible for that. They are still a great band capable of great music IMO, though I am more of a casual fan.

    I will say I’m glad they forced Ive to reconsider that U2 edition iPod — I thought it was the best-looking iPod of the time by a long way, and it complemented my goth wardrobe perfectly! :)
    Andy.Hardwakeracerhomie3kiowawadewmewatto_cobra
  • Reply 2 of 26
    Fred257Fred257 Posts: 245member
    “Songs of guilty” 😂
    cornchipwatto_cobra
  • Reply 3 of 26
    entropysentropys Posts: 4,213member
    It was the way it was delivered that was the problem, if it really was a problem. 

    As with many things these days, the outrage was confected and said a lot more about the enthusiastically outraged than U2 or Apple. 
    Much ado about nothing.
    chasmAndy.HardwakedanoxDAalsethscstrrfkiowawadewmecornchipwatto_cobra
  • Reply 4 of 26
    It should have been a free download through iTunes, not forced onto people’s devices. 
    gregoriusmJFC_PApulseimageschasmJapheyAndy.HardwakeJaiOh81ravnorodomdewmecornchip
  • Reply 5 of 26
    JFC_PAJFC_PA Posts: 934member
    Agreed; an opt-in free download. It was the imposition that riled people up.
    chasmJaiOh81dewmewatto_cobra
  • Reply 6 of 26
    coolfactorcoolfactor Posts: 2,279member
    Watching that Keynote reminds me of the excitement that keynote presentations used to instil. There was a far more personal experience back in those days. I wonder if Apple will return to those types of presentations again one day. You could really see Tim trying to carry on with the Steve Jobs presentation style back then. The past few years have seen a new style — not just because of COVID — with a new approach being used featuring a far more diverse lineup of presenters.
    elijahgdewmewatto_cobra
  • Reply 7 of 26
    hodarhodar Posts: 358member
    Bono may have agreed to “give it away”; but let’s take a moment of honesty.  Bono has ZERO authority to speak on behalf of what iTunes (Apple) actually DID

    Apple is the Company responsible for force feeding unwanted music onto millions of devices.  Not U2.  Apple did the deed
    mikethemartianJaiOh81
  • Reply 8 of 26
    Just shows how arrogant Bono is. 
  • Reply 9 of 26
    HrebHreb Posts: 85member
    Disaster for whom, exactly?
    davwatto_cobra
  • Reply 10 of 26
    chasmchasm Posts: 3,382member
    hodar said:
    Bono may have agreed to “give it away”; but let’s take a moment of honesty.  Bono has ZERO authority to speak on behalf of what iTunes (Apple) actually DID

    Apple is the Company responsible for force feeding unwanted music onto millions of devices.  Not U2.  Apple did the deed
    That was eight years ago. Yes, Apple makes mistakes and gets talked into making mistakes sometimes … remember that factory in AZ?

    If you’re looking for a company that doesn’t make mistakes … well, good luck with that.
    Andy.Hardwakescstrrfdavwatto_cobra
  • Reply 11 of 26
    hodar said:
    Bono may have agreed to “give it away”; but let’s take a moment of honesty.  Bono has ZERO authority to speak on behalf of what iTunes (Apple) actually DID

    Apple is the Company responsible for force feeding unwanted music onto millions of devices.  Not U2.  Apple did the deed

    calm down, take a seat. it's not that serious bruh!
    scstrrfdavwatto_cobra
  • Reply 12 of 26
    I got the free download and immediately was looking for a way to get that music off my devices. I hated the music personally and wanted nothing to do with the way it was done.  Apple made a mistake in the manner that they did the download. It should of been a opt in or opt out option for it.  When the instructions came out on how to removed the music I then immediately removed the "free" download.  

    Apple does make mistakes and that was doozy and I am glad that U2 and Apple admitted to making a mistake.  It was a experiment that got chopped off by the public. 
    JaiOh81ravnorodom
  • Reply 13 of 26
    hodar said:
    Bono may have agreed to “give it away”; but let’s take a moment of honesty.  Bono has ZERO authority to speak on behalf of what iTunes (Apple) actually DID

    Apple is the Company responsible for force feeding unwanted music onto millions of devices.  Not U2.  Apple did the deed
    Well personally I’ve never fully recovered. I lost my job, my home, and my wife left me. Thanks for nothing Bono. Actions have consequences. 
    fastasleeplkruppDAalsethscstrrfkiowawaJaiOh81lukeiravnorodomdavcornchip
  • Reply 14 of 26
    lkrupplkrupp Posts: 10,557member
    And once again, this ‘disaster' occurred primarily on tech blogs where rage against Apple is as predictable as the Sun rising on the East. The internet was fired up but that was about it. Most people didn’t even know the album was on their device. And even more interesting was that Apple had to provide instructions on how to delete it. 

    It’s still in my library by the way. I like free.
    DAalsethscstrrfdavwatto_cobra
  • Reply 15 of 26
    It should have been a free download through iTunes, not forced onto people’s devices. 

    As I recall, it wasn't forced onto people's devices. It automatically showed up in your list of purchased albums, but it didn't actually download until you chose to. It certainly didn't download onto mine.

    edited October 2022 DAalsethscstrrfdewmedavwatto_cobra
  • Reply 16 of 26
    danoxdanox Posts: 3,061member
    It could have been worse Apple could have sent Justin Bieber. Fake Rage
    dewmecornchipwatto_cobra
  • Reply 17 of 26
    Bono is hugely over rated.

  • Reply 18 of 26
    Can't believe this is still a thing. Buncha snowflakes were outraged because they received a free album. Boo-hoo-hoo!

    I'm not a U2 fan. I recognize that they are a talented, important band in history, but they were never my cup of tea. I ignored the free gift.
    edited October 2022 lkruppscstrrfdavwatto_cobra
  • Reply 19 of 26
    lkrupplkrupp Posts: 10,557member
    Appleish said:
    Can't believe this is still a thing. Buncha snowflakes were outraged because they received a free album. Boo-hoo-hoo!

    I'm not a U2 fan. I recognize that they are a talented, important band in history, but they were never my cup of tea. I ignored the free gift.
    You ignored the free gift, which is what a rational person would do, but a whole bunch of people aren’t rational. Could the album’s cover art been part of the problem for the more conservative types?
    Appleishdavwatto_cobra
  • Reply 20 of 26
    crowleycrowley Posts: 10,453member
    Bono is hugely over rated.
    Is he?  My impression is that everyone thinks he's a tit.
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