On September 9th, Apple held the splashy, seat-wetting unveiling of their latest polarizing products, the iPhone 6, the iPhone 6 plus and the brand spanking new Apple Watch. Apple fans and technophiles have been buzzing about the iPhone 6 since the launch of their last gadgets but it was Apple’s “gift” of U2’s latest album, Songs of Innocence, to its touted 500 million plus iTunes customers that divided the masses. When Apple “forced” the Irish rockers latest album into the music libraries of it’s customers last week it had some of those customers fuming at the audacious idea of making us own and listen to an album we never asked for. As a medium sized fan of the band I was indifferent to the gesture but still listened anyway (the album isn’t bad but won’t be on heavy rotation on my iPod). The headlines across North America and the world had music fans practically ready riot in the streets, angry at the invasion of our private libraries and the sacred choice we have to decided what we buy and listen to. Backlash against Apple’s idea prompted them to set up a special website where those who chose to do so could peacefully delete the songs. We put down our pitchforks, battering rams and torches and now all is back to normal; at least until iPhone 7 in two years.
As a publicity stunt, it all worked. The act made headlines (Apple is great at getting attention) and we were talking about Apple and consequently, U2 in the media long after their gadget launch. Was Apple right to give us the gift? Maybe, I love free music, who doesn’t…oh, wait all those people who were angered by a free U2 album. Could Apple have approached this differently? They could certainly have provided a link to the album where we could have chosen to download if we wanted but then they wouldn’t have been able to claim that, for the first time in music history, 500 million users own one album.
Will there always be people willing to complain about anything and everything, free or not? Absolutely, but there’s no such thing as bad publicity. Right, Apple?