Bono Apologizes For iTunes Album “Overreach” In New Memoir: “I Take Full Responsibility”
Remember how back in the fall of 2014, U2 force-fed every existing iTunes user their Songs Of Innocence album? For those who need a refresher: in September 2014, U2 dropped their 13th album onto every iTunes user’s accounts, whether they wanted it or not. It was a controversial action — while the band (aka Bono) thought they were magnanimously gifting a free album to about 500 million people, lots of those people just felt annoyed at the basic lack of consent — and that they couldn’t figure out how to remove the album from their accounts. Well, today The Guardian has published an exclusive excerpt from Bono’s forthcoming memoir Surrender: 40 Songs, One Story (out next month), and it includes an apology slash admission from Bono about that whole Songs Of Innocence thing.
In the excerpt, Bono begins by explaining how he laid out the whole “give-our-album-away-for-free-even-if-they-don’t-want-it” idea to Apple CEO Tim Cook.
“You want to give this music away free?” Bono recalls Cook saying. “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.”
“No,” I said, “I don’t think we give it away free. I think you pay us for it, and then you give it away free, as a gift to people. Wouldn’t that be wonderful?”
Tim Cook raised an eyebrow. “You mean we pay for the album and then just distribute it?”
I said, “Yeah, like when Netflix buys the movie and gives it away to subscribers.”
Tim looked at me as if I was explaining the alphabet to an English professor. “But we’re not a subscription organisation.”
“Not yet,” I said. “Let ours be the first.”
Tim was not convinced. “There’s something not right about giving your art away for free,” he said. “And this is just to people who like U2?”
“Well,” I replied, “I think we should give it away to everybody. I mean, it’s their choice whether they want to listen to it.”
“You might call it vaunting ambition. Or vaulting. Critics might accuse me of overreach. It is,” Bono concludes. Below, Bono goes on to say that the whole idea was a bad one and he takes full responsibility.
If just getting our music to people who like our music was the idea, that was a good idea. But if the idea was getting our music to people who might not have had a remote interest in our music, maybe there might be some pushback. But what was the worst that could happen? It would be like junk mail. Wouldn’t it? Like taking our bottle of milk and leaving it on the doorstep of every house in the neighbourhood.
Not. Quite. True.
On 9 September 2014, we didn’t just put our bottle of milk at the door but in every fridge in every house in town. In some cases we poured it on to the good people’s cornflakes. And some people like to pour their own milk. And others are lactose intolerant.
At first I thought this was just an internet squall, but quickly realised we’d bumped into a serious discussion about big tech.
I take full responsibility. Not Guy O, not Edge, not Adam, not Larry, not Tim Cook, not Eddy Cue. 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, “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.
Read the full excerpt here.