The New Top Selling Album of All Time – Songs of Innocence by U2

U2 Performing

In 2014, Apple presented the iPhone 6 and iPhone 6 Plus, but they also offered what probably seemed like a slam dunk. They gave every Apple iTunes subscriber the new U2 Songs of Innocence CD for free. Apple downloaded it to every iTunes account, whether subscribers wanted it or not.

That’s 500 million copies of the CD sent out for a mere $100 million by Apple. With a push of a button (or signing of a check), U2’s Songs of Innocence obliterated the current #1 selling album of all time, Michael Jackson’s Thriller, by 435 million copies. They were free to subscribers, so do they count? Apple paid for them, so that counts in my book. What about the copies if people deleted them? Doesn’t matter…they’re bought. What we do with it after we get it doesn’t get Apple a refund.

MIchael Jackson Thriller

Congrats, on this “accomplishment”, U2. Enjoy it because you and Apple pissed off millions of people. Plus, you may have alienated yourselves from many musicians. Time Magazine came out with an article focused on making sure bands get compensated for their art. But, with this stunt, many feel they have devalued music for all bands. It looks like U2 thinks they should get paid for their music while ruining the industry for others. 

Sharon Osbourne

Sharon Osbourne, never one to be shy, went on a Twitter tirade criticizing their music and political agendas. You can read her actual Tweets here. Keith Nelson, guitarist for Buckcherry, also criticized the band for devaluing music by giving it away for free. By not selling an album that has good potential to make actual sales makes things harder for newer bands. Also, retailers weren’t happy about it as it will cost them sales. 

Keith Nelson of Buckcherry

For Apple, they didn’t get out unscathed. According to this Vocativ article, the cost came out to $50 per album. And that’s with many not wanting it. Apple had also come under fire for privacy practices. So, giving the CD to customers without their consent did nothing to help solve that. They also had to send out directions of how to remove the download to customers. 

Apple iPhone

I don’t think either U2 or Apple needed the extra publicity from this stunt…even if it hadn’t had such a huge backlash. The iPhone 6 is going to sell either way. U2 fans would buy the new CD…granted, they wouldn’t have made $100 million in sales. They also saw a spike in sales of the back catalog. But their reputation is taking a hit. There’s definitely a trade-off and you can decide if you think it was worth it.

U2, Bono and Paul McCartney

I’m not a fan of U2, so that could be clouding my judgment. While there are a ton of U2 fans, I’m curious what the reaction would have been if they worked with Paul McCartney. I can’t think of anyone that would be more popular than him. I’m sure there would still be detractors, but I wonder if he would have taken as much heat.

What are your thoughts? Did you like getting the free music? If not U2, what artist (if any) would you have been ok with? Does the privacy issue bother you? Thanks for reading. If you like this post, please share it!

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