back to article U2? 81 million Apple iThing-strokers know a place where the Beats have no shame

Some might say that being on the cover of Vogue is pretty cool. But when Apple foisted U2's latest album on 81 million innocent people? Quite the opposite. Apple has told the music bible Billboard that some 81 million people took the chance to "experience" Songs Of Innocence, with 26 million downloading the thing in its …

  1. g e


    So, actually given the choice, only about half the number of your involuntary customers will buy U2 over a whole decade.

    Is that what he's trying to say?

    1. I ain't Spartacus Gold badge

      Re: Hmmmm

      I have in the past bought music by U2 (a 'best of' album). Although it was on CD. So far I have used an Amazon voucher to purchase one song via download. I have 200 CDs worth plus rips in iTunes though.

      And it turns out that I downloaded U2 onto my iPad. So I'm one of the 26-odd million that downloaded the whole thing. Well actually I'm not. Out of curiousity I looked to see if it was there, and magically it was. Without me doing anything, and despite not having synched the device with a PC in a while. And iCloud being off on the iPad, so far as I was aware. Apple must have re-enabled it at some update or another.

      I suspect in that light, that the 26m downloads is therefore less impressive. I'm not angry. All Apple did was give me some free music. Admittedly they did take a few MB of my download allowance, but I'll live.

      It was a properly dull album though. I listened all the way through and I think there was one song that was vaguely memorable. I suppose if you're going to give an album away for free, you may as well make it a dull but OK one, so you can sell the good stuff on the next one.

  2. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    "Apple is a tech company fighting to get musicians paid. "

    So, I buy a CD and the shop takes a cut, then passes on the rest to the music company,

    I buy the music from iTunes, Apple takes a 30% cut and then passes on the rest to the music company,

    Please, can someone tell how that helps the musicians get paid? Are the record labels absorbing the reduced income and still paying the musicians that same? Does the removal of physical media really reduce production costs to offset that 30% cut?

    The last CD I bought, I got from the bands concession stand in the entrance to the concert venue. I bet a greater slice of the tenner went into their pockets than if I'd downloaded it from iTunes when I got home.

    1. g e

      Digital Distro Deal

      I think the digital distro of an act's music has it's own contract/rates/variant on physical media these days, so the artist(s) are probably backshafted by design there, too.

    2. ThomH

      Why on earth do you think 70% is reduced income? Production, distribution and storage (i.e. the shop's rent, electricity, etc) that need to be paid for if you buy a CD on the high street.

      According to the BBC those three things add up to £2.72 of an £8 CD — see

      So from a physical CD sale, the bit equivalent to that for which Apple charges 30% adds up to... 34%.

    3. danny_0x98


      I buy a loaf of bread in a store. The store gets what it paid the bakery and its cut. How does the farmer get paid?!?

      Now before I get labelled a jackass, I understand your real question which is more about how do the artists get a fair share of the revenues. The artist's cut is controlled by a contract negotiated between one party that has literally tens of thousands of alternatives and another that has a dozen. The record company knows a dozen ways to "win" (or, as I'll mention later, minimize its risks) and, you, the artist don't know any. Perhaps you walk in with a manager or attorney with experience, which is good, until you realize that they too take a percentage of your deal, have multiple clients (diversified risk) and will be coming into this office tomorrow with somebody else, so, perhaps your representation is not as prepared to go to 11 in negotiations as they suggested when they were romancing you, the unrealized genius.

      Did the band selling the CD at the show do better than if you had purchased through iTunes. Most assuredly. But we'd all do better if we self-distributed. Distribution, though, is hard and if a musician would rather spend her time writing a new song than negotiating new sales channels, I can see making that choice and we all understand that if someone sells something for you, they get a cut. If she were great at the business stuff, she should form a record company and get into the aggregator/distributor business. In that milieu, she's a superstar.

      With regards to digital sales, though not as profitable as the concession sale, no band can play everywhere to everyone and keep their stand open 24/7. The band should be selling at shows and through iTunes. It is a show biz cliche to ask the question "What's better 100% of nothing or 5% of something?" No citations, but I think the chance that the 100% of the nothing that becomes something big and does pay off is less than 20 to 1. (Besides, if one chooses one's partners wisely, the little slice of nothing becomes a relationship that may turn into bigger and better opportunities tomorrow.)

      Record companies operate under a fundamental premise: even the best talent pickers will be wrong 9 out of 10 times, whether it's the wrong act or the wrong time in that act's development. Artists very, very rarely have a second chance. This is why one would rather be a record company than an artist, not that any thing's easy. If you look closely at the biz in the glory days, many artists never even had the one chance. They were signed, got an advance, recorded one album which got shelved without release, and were dropped by the label.

      Today the technology of recording is far more accessible and the costs of distribution two magnitudes lower. No one says that a sustainable music career requires iTunes, but it doesn't hurt. Meanwhile, the real lesson is that the record company is less important than it was.

      How does the artist get more? The artist takes more risk and does more work or becomes so big that they reverse the power mismatch that was there at the beginning of their career. But the person buying music is still absolutely vital in answering the question how does the artist gets paid.

    4. Just Enough

      "Please, can someone tell how that helps the musicians get paid? "

      You're comparing iTunes to the wrong thing. Buying a CD is of declining significance. The relevant comparison should be;

      "I download the music through The Pirate Bay, TPB gets paid advertising clicks, the music company gets 0%, and the artist gets paid a percentage of 0%."

      Now can you see how iTunes helps? I don't think anyone is thinking that iTunes is great, but at least it does pay the artist something.

  3. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Many performers get more in their pockets from touring than from album or single sales.

    No wonder many don't object so strongly to people not paying for copies. They probably earn almost the same from pirate copies as they do from streamed or downloaded.

    1. Just Enough

      And many performers don't. Performers differ, and there is no simple pat solution to how all performers should be paid.

  4. NoneSuch Silver badge

    I have no problem paying a little more for quality, but have a HUGE issue paying Apple for a logo branded phone that underperforms against their competitors significantly cheaper hardware.

    Pay 400 pounds more for a shiny logo? I'll pass.

    1. ThomH

      Then just use the storefront. Music is DRM free and comes in a standard, well-supported file format. So when you're shopping around, you can factor in iTunes as an option regardless of whether you've bought any hardware from Apple. A truly price-conscious customer would check all the options.

      1. Kristian Walsh Silver badge

        Ignore Apple; get better for less is my current favourite music source. Legal, lossless, DRM-free CD-quality (or better) albums for around what iTunes asks for compressed AC3s, and you can keep copies wherever you want, or stream anything you've bought for free. (Some albums are available in high-bitrate remasters for a bit more cash, if that's your thing)

        There's also a monthly streaming service at CD-quality (discounts for the MP3-only one; or if you only want access to their classical/Jazz collection)

        I've no connection with them other than as a very happy customer, but theirs is the closest to my ideal music service (i.e., actually less restrictive than buying the CD and ripping it), so I'm happy to plug the service.

        And you don't have to run iTunes to use it.

        1. ThomH

          Re: Ignore Apple; get better for less (@Kristian)

          Some quick price comparisons, of some of my current favourite albums:

          First Love by Emmy the Great: iTunes, £4.49; Qobuz €9.99 (about 75% more expensive)

          Gulag Orkestar by Beirut: iTunes, £7.99; Qobuz €11.99 (about 18% more expensive)

          Anna Calvi's eponymous album: iTunes £5.99; Qobuz €7.99 (about 5% more expensive)

          The Stone Roses' eponymous album: iTunes £6.99; Qobuz €12.99 (about 46% more expensive)

          In my opinion, 5% is easily worth it for lossless. 18% is borderline. 75% is grossly disproportionate. But then I thought, maybe I just have atypical taste? Or benefitted from checking out generally older albums? So I checked the current top 5. Per Radio 1 that is currently George Ezra, Sam Smith, Ed Sheeran, Jamie T and Barbra Streisand. In all cases I picked the regular versions of albums rather than deluxe; for Qobuz I stuck with the CD-quality prices though often better-than-CD was available.

          Combined iTunes price for all five: £40.95. Combined Qobuz price: €69.72 (about 33% more expensive).

          Is 33% worth it for lossless? I think a lot of people would say so. But it's not better for less, it's better for a little more.

          (aside: personally I'm a big fan of

          1. Kristian Walsh Silver badge

            Re: Ignore Apple; get better for less (@Kristian)

            Fair enough, so have an upvote... iTunes pricing has improved since I looked last time. It used to be around €9.99 an album, which was way too much for a sub-CD copy.

            Lossless is still worth the extra for me, and not having to use the abomination that is iTunes is worth a couple of cents per album.

            Agree that Roughtrade and other small-label sites can be a good place, and If your favourite band has a decent website, it's also worth checking there - often you can get lossless or high-bitrate releases there for lower prices, and they get a far bigger share of the sale than if it goes through iTunes etc.

    2. jof62

      I think you will pass on quality also then

  5. Androgynous Cowherd

    In a statement, Bonio emoted: "Apple is a tech company fighting to get musicians paid. The idea that they wanted to make a gift to the very people that actually purchase music is both beautiful and poetic, and for that we are very grateful. Thanks to Apple we're £100 million richer"

    In a quote from Bonio the Cnut

  6. MondoMan

    Where's the "there" here?

    So, did anyone else have trouble finding an actual story here?

    1. Gene Cash Silver badge

      Re: Where's the "there" here?

      Apple is extremely excited about how many people they managed to piss off at once.

  7. Amorous Cowherder

    Dear old "Bonehead"

    Didn't U2's "Bonehead" once say something fecking moronic like, "The Pope of software meets the Dali Lama of hardware.", when Bill Gates met Steve Jobs?!

  8. Simon Cresswell

    Missing statistic

    What I'd like to know is how many peole took advantage of the iRemove (TM) tool to rid the pesky Bono from their itunes/icloud once and for all.

    Even if only to be bloody minded, like wot I did.

  9. patrick_bateman

    U2 and apple

    So Bono (or Boner - being short for Di*****d) is all about world piece, against hunger, slavery and all that.

    So why is he wanting to even be seen close to Apple, surely this is a complete contradiction of what he is going for

    1. John Tserkezis

      Re: U2 and apple

      "So why is he wanting to even be seen close to Apple"

      Because he wants more money, and world peace doesn't put bread on the table, or gold plate on the hubcaps - whatever floats your boat.

  10. i like crisps

    Dear Bono

    Will you please set fire to yourself.........thats it.

  11. chivo243 Silver badge

    My last U2 purchase

    Just to skew the stats... On vinyl, Unforgettable Fire, and have only seen them live one time at Amnesty International in Chicago '86.

  12. disgruntled yank

    Should we prescribe some lithium for the music business?

    The musicians emote and their lawyers roar.

  13. Mark 85

    Oh Hell...

    I'm still pondering the meaning of the sub-headline. Like all it was there for was to be click-bait. I had a minor hope that there was some connection to the story.... Oh well, it is Friday.

  14. Henry Wertz 1 Gold badge

    Another reason I'm glad I have no Apple products

    Just another reason I'm glad I don't have Apple products. Bono's a douchebag, and I don't like any U2 music. Going into an online store and having it advertised? Sure. Having things force-loaded onto my device without my authorization? Hell no. Then using the unauthorized load as a basis to brag over some kind of sales figures? Double hell no, it's even worse to be counted in sales figures towards something you don't even like.

    As for Beats... this was founded by Dr. Dre and one or two of his cohorts, to produce speakers and headphones. It was sold to Apple. I don't see why anyone would expect money from this transaction to go to all sorts of musicians, they didn't have a stake in the company.

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