Singer Bono has apologized for Apple downloading U2’s 2014 album Songs Of Innocence to every iTunes user’s account, calling the incident an “overreach” on his part.
In an excerpt from his new memoir Surrender: 40 Songs, One Story, published in the Guardian, the artist took responsibility for the attacks on U2 and Apple and called his appeal to Apple CEO Tim Cook with this idea of his own “boastful ambition”.
Bono remembers Cook asking him about the idea: “Do you want to give this music away for free? But the whole point of what we’re trying to do at Apple is not to give away music for free. The point is that musicians get paid.”
In the excerpt, Bono recalls a meeting with Cook, U2 manager Guy Oseary and Apple executives Eddie Cue and Phil Schiller that took place in 2014 at Apple’s headquarters in Cupertino, California.
“No,” I said, “I don’t think we give it away free. I think you pay us for it and then you give it away free, as a gift to people. Wouldn’t that be wonderful?”
Bono goes on to talk about the CEO’s skepticism about the idea and how he managed to convince Apple to launch a music subscription platform for Apple Music alongside the album.
“Tim Cook raised an eyebrow. “You mean we’ll pay for the album and then just distribute it?” I replied, “The way Netflix buys a movie and distributes it to subscribers.” Tim looked at me like I was explaining the alphabet to an English professor. “But we’re not a subscription organization.” “Not yet,” I said. “Let ours be the first.” Tim was not convinced. “There’s something wrong with giving away your art for free,” he said. “And it’s only for those who like U2?”
“Well,” I replied, “I think we should give them to everyone. It’s their choice whether they want to listen to it.”
Not long after, there was a controversy, remembered by many iTunes users who discovered the album on their phone with no explanation as to where it came from.
“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 (Latin my fault). If just getting our music to people who like our music was the idea, that was a good idea. But if the idea was getting our music to people who might not have had a remote interest in our music, maybe there might be some pushback. At first I thought this was just an internet squall, but quickly realized we’d bumped into a serious discussion about big tech,’ Bono continued. ‘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.'”