U2’s Bono on iTunes controversy: “Critics might accuse me of overreach. It is”

He originally thought, "what was the worst that could happen?"

Bono has addressed the 2014 controversy where U2 arranged for their album ‘Songs Of Innocence‘ to be automatically downloaded onto the devices of 500million iTunes users.

The U2 singer has taken full responsibility for the marketing ploy, which caused significant backlash for users receiving a free copy of the band’s 10th album unsolicited.

In an extract from his new memoir Surrender: 40 Songs, One Story published in The Guardian, the singer writes that “critics might accuse me of overreach” before admitting that “it is”.

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Bono discusses U2’s long-standing relationship with Apple in his new book, which originated from the band meeting the co-founder of Apple, Steve Jobs, in 2004. The CEO had refused to pay the group in Apple stock for their music to be used in an iPod advert.

A decade later, Bono visited Tim Cook, who had taken over from Jobs as CEO after the latter’s death in 2011, with the idea to give away their new album.

Bono
Bono.

“‘You want to give this music away free?’” Bono recalled Cook responding. “‘But the whole point of what we’re trying to do at Apple is to not give away music free. The point is to make sure musicians get paid.’

“‘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?… I think we should give it away to everybody. I mean, it’s their choice whether they want to listen to it.’”

Bono continued, reflecting on the situation. “See what just happened? You might call it vaunting ambition. Or vaulting. Critics might accuse me of overreach. It is.

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“What was the worst that could happen? It would be like junk mail. Wouldn’t it? Like taking our bottle of milk and leaving it on the doorstep of every house in the neighbourhood. Not. Quite. True.”

He added: “On 9 September 2014, we didn’t just put our bottle of milk at the door but in every fridge in every house in town. In some cases we poured it on to the good people’s cornflakes. And some people like to pour their own milk. And others are lactose intolerant.”

The singer went on to clarify that he was the only bandmember responsible – “not Guy O, not Edge, not Adam, not Larry, not Tim Cook, not Eddy Cue”.

U2
U2 CREDIT: Han Myung-Gu/WireImage

Bono continued: “At first I thought this was just an internet squall. We were Santa Claus and we’d knocked a few bricks out as we went down the chimney with our bag of songs,” he wrote.

“But quite quickly we realised we’d bumped into a serious discussion about the access of big tech to our lives. The part of me that will always be punk rock thought this was exactly what The Clash would do. Subversive. But subversive is hard to claim when you’re working with a company that’s about to be the biggest on Earth.

“We’d learned a lesson, but we’d have to be careful where we would tread for some time. It was not just a banana skin. It was a landmine.”

Elsewhere in his memoir Bono opens up about the alleged death threats he’s received.

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