I normally don’t like to comment on big music and brand stories as there is little point adding to the din around them. However, I really feel I need to chip in on the U2/APPLE incident.
Depending on who you read, either the biggest thing ever in music happened last week or there was an album launch which nobody was really bothered about. Some say U2 got paid $100m, others suggest that the media campaign was worth $100m, others worried about whether the light stays on when you close the fridge.
In the interest of honest journalism I would like to declare my interests, I own an iPad and a MacBook but I have never owned an iPhone, although I am a little tempted by the 6 as long as it has a battery that can help me chronicle the entire life of a mayfly. I also own a lot of U2 albums, all of them up to 2004, not entirely sure why.
What does the U2/Apple thing really mean? Well Music Ally did some analysis of the data and concluded that actually people weren’t that excited about a new U2 album even when it is free. They also hit the nail on the head by spotting that actually the real money for U2 from this amazing moment of philanthropy is that the back catalogue is doing great business on iTunes.
For me the whole thing demonstrates the power of having mates in high places. The Apple love affair with U2 dates back to the days of Steve Jobs at a time when U2 really were a big band. Nowadays things have changed, kids and teens have no idea who Bono is and U2 are about as relevant to their lives as a finance package on family car. So why have Apple seen fit to bring the band in for their biggest launch of the year? Will it help their business reach untapped audiences and convince the world that the iPhone is cool? Nah. This is about Bono being mates with Sir Jonathan Ive and Jimmy Iovine. It is about Tim Cook’s desire to try and grab a little of that Steve Jobs magic by hanging out with rock stars. This is about being connected.
I think this experiment in music and brand partnerships will succeed for Apple in the way it seems to be for U2. Apple couldn’t give a crap if some teenager knows what The Joshua Tree is because how many 16 year olds can afford a £600 phone anyway. What they seem to be gunning for is the 40 somethings who can. Despite the words of Guy Oseary in a recent Billboard interview I’m not convinced that the upswing in U2 sales is being driven by teenagers. You see they have this thing called Spotify which is really rather good and makes iTunes look a little pants (youth terminology from a while back). This partnership is about middle aged (I’m being generous) men sitting around and asking themselves what band they want attached to their mobile brand, not a skateboard or an app in sight.
Do I think what Apple and U2 have done is smart? No. Do I think this is the future of the music industry? No. Will it make more people buy iPhones? No. Will it help bring U2 to the kids? No. What it will do is get U2 in the news for a week, get some people to listen to an album that they would never have paid £10 for and save Apple a few quid on sync fees for their commercials.
I almost forgot to mention the album. Its a little boring but U2 fans will love it. If you want to remove it from your life here are the instructions.