Music

U2’s Bono sheds new light on infamous iTunes giveaway in upcoming memoir

In a new memoir, U2 frontman Bono has spilled the beans on the internal discussions that lead to two of the band’s high-profile collaborations with Apple. The first saw the band star in one of the company’s iconic iPod ads, while the second is much less fondly remembered, and involved Apple pushing the band’s newly released album into the hands of everyone with an iTunes account. The anecdotes appear in Bono’s upcoming book, Surrender: 40 Songs, One Story, extracts of which have been published by The Guardian.

According to Bono, the Vertigo music video came about after members of the band met with then-Apple CEO Steve Jobs in October 2004 to pitch its upcoming song “Vertigo” as the soundtrack to one of the iPod’s silhouette commercials. But with the band refusing to accept a traditional fee for its appearance, and with Jobs reluctant to pay in Apple stock, Bono was apparently the one to suggest Apple produce a limited-edition U2-themed iPod as payment. 

Obviously the suggestion worked. The band would go on to star in the iconic ad and Apple would eventually produce a total of four special edition U2 iPods between 2004 and 2006. These included versions of the 4th and 5th generation iPods, as well as the iPod Photo, which were black with red scroll wheels. 

The band’s second Apple collaboration was far more controversial, and involved pushing its then-newly released album Songs of Innocence to over 500 million people’s iTunes accounts for free. By this point Tim Cook was in charge of Apple, but the CEO was apparently reluctant to distribute the band’s album as the company was “not a subscription organization.” 

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Anyway, Cook eventually came around and agreed to put a copy of the album in everyones’ iTunes account. People hated it, the album wasn’t great, Bono apologized, and Apple eventually released a special tool to allow people to remove it. But less than a year later Apple would announce its Apple Music streaming service, and today is arguably more of a subscription organization than ever before.

Here’s how Bono describes the backlash, saying he should be blamed over manager Guy Oseary, and band members Edge, Adam Clayton, and Larry Mullen Jr.:

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.

You can read the extracts from Bono’s memoir over on The Guardian ahead of its release on November 1st.   

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