If you haven’t done so already, pick up your iPhone and search U2 in your music. See anything strange?
If you have an iCloud account, you now magically have U2’s entire new album, Songs of Innocence, in your music library. Why you may ask? Well, it may be due to the greatest marketing strategy our age has seen – or possibly the biggest public relations disaster of all time. You decide.
U2 has once again partnered with Apple in an attempt to revitalize their diminishing popularity (remember the 2004 iPod ‘Silhouette’ commercials?). This time, the band created a marketing strategy to play off the publicity surrounding the release of iPhone 6 and 6+. Apple not only made the band’s new album free to all iTunes users, but also downloaded it to every single device using iCloud automatically – that’s over 500 million devices.
You may ask, “Why would anybody want to give away music for free?” Well, in 2007 alternative rock band, Radiohead, allowed their new album at the time to be downloaded online for as low as 1 penny. Shortly after, the band saw a huge spike in ticket sales for their upcoming tour as well as in sales for their past records. What was thought of as a stupid idea, giving away music for free, ended up being one of the best marketing strategies the band had ever implemented.
In this case, U2 wanted to step up the game. Not only would they give away their music for free, but they wanted to put their album in – quite literally – the palms of everyone’s hands. With the idea of reinventing themselves, U2 wanted to reinvent the way music is shared with the world. They wanted to come out with a big bang and become a household name again. And it sure did work.
Apple released a statement claiming that over 38 million people accessed the free album. That is way more people than those who would have purchased the album in a normal release. People who love U2 were ecstatic. And people who never even heard of U2 were able to try a taste of their music… if they liked it or not. And the overwhelming opinion was that they did not.
The band faced a huge backlash from iTunes users across the entire world. Social media blew up with people complaining about the publicity stunt, claiming it was invasive and downright creepy, as well as with people demanding ways to remove the album from their phones. Apple was even forced to release a webpage describing how one could remove the album. Many people claimed that if they wanted U2’s album they would have gone out and bought it and having it appear on their phones was like having it shoved down their throats.
Even though U2 received such hard criticism over their marketing stunt, it may prove to work out for them. It brought their name back into the spotlight, even if it was in a negative way. But hey, we all know that any publicity is good publicity.