Got iTunes? The Unexpected Apple Gift That Backfired!

Ian HancockIndustry News

This morning you might be happy, or irritated, to find an additional treat in your music folder. The Irish rock band, U2 have made a deal with the electronics juggernaut, Apple to automatically distribute their new album “Songs of Innocence” to every phone, tablet and computer that opened iTunes on Thursday 11th September 2014.  However, was this forced free gift a smart marketing move or an almighty mistake?

The new U2 album will be available exclusively through iTunes for free between September 9th and October 13th. After October 13th, it will also be released in physical form and sold. But what are the reasons behind this PR stunt?


1. It could be a statement about digital media. The streaming services such as Spotify, Deezer and Simfy present a serious threat to Apple’s iTunes business model which has always relied on selling songs for £1 each. Therefore, by offering an album for free they are reinventing their business model to fight the competition.

2. It may be a sign that Apple are working to get as many people as possible to download iTunes, and in turn gain the details to credit card numbers. Therefore, aiding towards their new Apple Pay system.

3. Apple may use this marketing method to further promote the newly released Apple iPhone 6 and iPhone 6 Plus.


1. If U2 were to fail to sell a single album after the exclusive deal with Apple (we’re not saying anything), they’re still getting paid.

2. For U2 the deal is way to advertise. Using Apple to automatically distribute their album worldwide creates a big splash.

3. U2 gain exposure and potentially new fans.

There are many reasons to explain why Apple and U2 joined forces to give away an album on iTunes. However, what’s more interesting is the backlash that both Apple and U2 have received for this somewhat intrusive marketing tactic:

Social media has acted as the channel for upset and outraged Apple users to vent their frustrations. An instant resource to share complaints with the world, social media channels have seen a barrage of angry Apple fans debate the latest U2 marketing technique. This resulted in the BBC NEWS story “How To Delete Your Free U2 Album” coming 6th in the ‘most read’ category on the BBC NEWS website:

It is clear that Apple and U2’s ‘clever’ promotion has backfired. Many people (myself included) would be overjoyed to receive anything for free. However, what Apple and U2 forgot was that we are usually given the option to receive something for free, pay for an item or listen to a song.

Apple and U2’s audience were not given the choice – they forgot that. Therefore, their idea of an ‘innocent gift’ is in fact not a gift at all, but a calculated marketing technique that has left their target market feeling resentful and discouraged.