U2 is one of the world’s biggest rock groups, and their latest album just ended up on your iPhone or iPad for free. Great deal, right?
Not for everyone.
Remarkable as it may seem, the people who bought the 130 million U2 albums and the owners of the currently active 300 million iPhones don’t necessarily converge. Tribalism still rules in the music industry, and a lot of people don’t seem particularly happy that the Irish group’s latest album “Songs of Innocence” was rolled out to devices around the world with no active participation in the click-and-download process.
Just what is going on here? Can Apple now do what it wants with your iPhone or iPad? Just who do U2 think they are (or, if you’re under 15, just who are U2?), and how on earth will you delete “Songs of Innocence” so that you can use those megabytes for long players you actually want to listen to?
U2 At The iPhone 6/Apple Watch Launch
Apple’s collaboration with U2 shouldn’t have been such a surprise, as the two have got together before. In 2004, Apple released a U2 edition of the iPod (finished with the same color scheme as the group’s album “How to Dismantle an Atomic Bomb” and accompanied with a popular advert) which came with a discount voucher to persuade buyers to buy the group’s back catalog.
In fact, U2’s involvement with the launch had been leaked a few days before the September 10th event (as early as the 3rd), but it wasn’t until the Apple Watch and iPhone 6 range of devices had been unveiled that members Bono, The Edge, Larry Mullen and Adam Clayton (U2 has had the same lineup for 35 years) were introduced to the crowd.
Seems fair enough, if a little forced. At this stage, only those present and watching intently online had quite grasped what was going on. Apple was actually giving away an album in an act of naïve generosity that would forever change exactly how we look at the technology giant and its most successful product.
“Songs of Innocence” was suddenly appearing on people’s iPhones and iPads, in a worldwide act of synchronicity that wouldn’t have been out of place in a Hollywood movie about cybernetic takeovers.
In the UK, much of the excitement in the USA was missed. Instead of going to bed with a present, most of us woke up in a very bad mood upon discovering the album on our iDevices, while on Twitter, things started to get unpleasant.
How Twitter Reacted To Free U2 Album
“Hey I got a free U2 album!”
This might have been the reaction to such a giveaway in the 1990s, but these days, with the passing of time, U2’s general slow pace when it comes to recording an album and going on tour, coupled with the fact that they’re basically not known among younger fans… well, one gets the feeling that the Apple execs were a lot more excited by this than a lot of their customers.
Congratulations to U2, who played a concert today and were blown off the stage by a phone and a watch.
— Ben Hoffman (@thebenshow) September 10, 2014
WARNING: DO NOT click on links offering free downloads of the new U2 album. They lead to free downloads of the new U2 album.
— u.v.ray™ (@uvray_) September 9, 2014
Do you believe in ghosts? If not check your phone because Steve Jobs gifted you with U2's 2014 full album
— Brittany Skye (@brittanyskye_) September 11, 2014
Those wondering how Apple can just put a random U2 album on your phone obviously didn't read the TOS. pic.twitter.com/DOHPAPYFtL
— Seb FoxAllen (@purpledocket) September 11, 2014
U2 IS ON EVERYONES PHONE IS THIS HELL
— Michele Maturo (@michelematuro) September 10, 2014
Apple can track me via GPS and share my naked photos all they like, but auto-downloading a U2 album onto my phone is A GOD DAMN STEP TOO FAR
— Jon Rowlandson (@jonrowlandson) September 10, 2014
Okay, so Tim Cook gave us all U2’s new album. I think I might buy an Android phone as a result.
— Br Gabriel Mosher OP (@lukei4655) September 9, 2014
It’s the beauty of social networking that people can react so quickly to something. Big companies like Apple do pay attention to what is being said, especially after a product launch!
Right now, it is too early to say what Apple will do to deal with the fallout which has threatened to overshadow a mixed product launch, but you can act now to remove “Songs of Innocence”… sort of.
Your Turn: Remove The U2 Album From Your iPhone
U2 is hugely popular, but that doesn’t mean you have to listen to their album or even like them. It’s your iPhone or iPad, and the media you enjoy on it is your choice.
“Songs of Innocence” takes up over 100MB of space. You might want this storage for photos or tracks by artists you really appreciate.
However, a word of note: there is no way to delete the album from your collection. You can remove it from your iOS device, but thanks to Apple, you’ll always have a U2 album in your library.
Removing the album from your iPhone or iPad requires that you delete each track manually, so open up Music, find the album, and swipe each track right to left, then tap Delete. After deletion, the tracks will be in the cloud should you wish to listen to them.
As they’re in the cloud, you’ll easily find “Songs of Innocence” when browsing your device. The best tactic here is to hide it, so open Settings > iTunes and toggle Show All Music off. You should also scroll down to the Automatic Downloads section and disable Music to stop tracks in your iCloud syncing to your device automatically.
You’ll still be stuck with “Songs of Innocence”, but you won’t see it.
How Do You Feel About Your iPhone Being Sent Music You Don’t Want?
Clearly, there was an opportunity here to team up two elements of the 40+ entertainment market and put them together on a stage and in your pocket. Who cares whether the album is good or not? It’s U2, a huge international rock and roll brand.
Forget that for a big portion of music buyers, U2 are no longer relevant (not an unkindness, a reality), that they creatively peaked in the early 1990s, and that they’ve been riding on the back of “Joshua Tree” and “Rattle and Hum” ever since. In that respect, they’re no different to, say, Bon Jovi.
Instead, forget about who is involved, ignore the band, the album and the company. We’ll spin it like this:
“Microsoft sends free copy of Bon Jovi’s new album to every Xbox One.”
“Corporate giant sends free copy of self-absorbed rock album to its most popular device.”
There is a feeling of discomfort that Apple is prepared to do this so readily. This time it’s an album, but next time you might be forced to download (let’s call it a “forcedown”) a movie you don’t like or even have a moral reason not to own a copy of.
It might even be private data removed from your device.
How do you feel about Apple and U2’s collaboration? What would you say to them? Are you happy to have the contents of your phone or tablet modified without notification? Use the comments box to share your thoughts.