September 9th marked new releases for two industry giants. Iconic rock band U2 released its newest album, Songs of Innocence, while Apple revealed a collection of ne
w gadgets that once again stole the tech industry’s spotlight. Although these giants have capitalized on both the music and tech industry respectively, they decided to collaborate on one colossal reveal. Along with the iPhone 6, iPhone 6 plus and the brand new Apple Watch, Apple subscribers were treated (or mistreated) to a free download of U2’s first studio album in five years. The controversy that sparked among 500 million iPhone users stemmed from the involuntary, overnight album download. Baffled and confused by the ten additional new tracks on their iTunes, users, notably celebrities, took to twitter to call out U2’s album launch decision.
One of the most renowned names in the rock scene, Sharon Osbourne, ranted “U2 you are business moguls not musicians anymore. No wonder you have to give your mediocre music away for free cause no one wants to buy it.” With Osbourne ruthlessly attacking one of rock’s biggest players, it puts the genre at a stand-off with the industry at a very pivotal time. Not to mention, Bono pays tribute to punk legend Joey Ramone on the album’s leading single “The Miracle.”
Tweeting a similar distasteful response to the album, rapper and entertainer Tyler, The Creator compared the overnight download to “waking up with a pimple or like herpes.” Although the method was a bit unorthodox or maybe even a little overbearing, harsh comments from Sharon Osbourne, Tyler the Creator and the like only straw away from diffusing the situation.
On the opposite end, U2’s newfound manager Guy Oseary, told Mashable in an interview that “if someone doesn’t like it, then that’s OK, delete it.” His response to a seemingly anti-U2 uproar paralleled a similar public service announcement made from Bono himself from the band’s website, “For the people out there who have no interest in checking us out, look at it this way: The blood, sweat and tears of some Irish guys are in your junk mail.” As an added bonus, Apple created a help page specifically for the purpose of removing the album from the iTunes library. Oseary, Bono and the rest of the gang claimed to have anticipated the backlash from Apple users. whether appreciated or not, it was still one of the biggest album releases of the era.
Some notable surprise album releases and unorthodox campaigns similarly sparked discussion. Radiohead’s 2007 album, In Rainbows, was released independently under a “pay what you wish” model. Some critics claimed they paved a new path for the industry, while others deemed it idiocy. Ultimately, their loyal and expansive fan base supported the risky experiment.
Beyonce’s self-titled release in December of 2013 made history. With no prior promotional campaign, fans and critics alike were pleasantly surprised, and undoubtedly drawn in by the accompanying music videos. Yet another revolutionary release proved to be satisfactory, reiterating the unpredictable nature of the music industry.
These releases, although not all equally successful, are attempts at changing the model of the entertainment industry as a whole. Future players can definitely benefit from a shift in the tide, while learning from the veterans before them.