The value of music is put in question when U2 gave their album away for free
iTunes had to publish an entire article dedicated to the steps describing how to remove U2’s new album, Songs of Innocence, from your iTunes library. You can sense something went terribly wrong.
The renowned Irish rockers released their 13th studio album, Songs of Innocence, to immense backlash. The album, which was available digitally on Apple platforms Sept. 9, is still sparking discussion surrounding the method of its distribution. Upon its release, the album was exclusively available to all iTunes customers, and was directly downloaded to their music libraries as a “gift” from the company and the band.
Today, digital downloads are seemingly the preferred method of consuming music. iTunes, as a digital music platform, dominates the digital music industry. It seems only logical that a band such as U2, who have had connections with Apple and iTunes in the past, would want to take full advantage of the benefits of an exclusive digital release. However, writers and musicians alike have brought up problems with this method.
Patrick Carney of The Black Keys (in an interview with The Seattle Times) and Nick Mason of Pink Floyd (in an interview with Rolling Stone) agreed that by releasing their music for free, it was sending a message to other bands and the public that the album somehow has no value. This is very problematic, as musicians should be supporting each other and helping to remind the public that their work is valuable. Their music is their career. Their music is their livelihood.
Bono, the lead singer of U2, revealed in a Facebook interview a few reasons for why the band chose to “generously” give back. He bizarrely suggested that the iTunes release was partially out of “deep fear that these songs that we poured our life into over the last few years might not be heard.” This sounds utterly appalling coming from a band who have sold over 150 million records and who have won more Grammy awards than any other band in history.
To think they could justify forcing their album on consumers out of fear it wouldn’t be heard is completely outrageous. Generous intentions aside, not every band can have the luxury of giving away their music for free. It would seem likely that every musician or artist in the world lives in fear that his or her hard work won’t be seen or appreciated, but then again, that is life.
If something is worth being listened to or watched or experienced, the public will find it. They will do whatever they can to seek it out, whether that means waiting in a line up outside of a record store, or risking illegal downloading. Sure, Songs of Innocence was downloaded and listened to and enjoyed by millions of fans. Yet, it is unfortunate to think that these musicians arrived at a point where they had “poured [their] life” into their work, and still they weren’t even able to give it away.