Tangent: Lockheed U2

Surprising every iTunes customer with a free copy of U2’s newest album honestly looks pretty clever on paper. Jay Z did something of the sort last year with everyone who owned a certain mobile phone, and U2’s particular corporate tie-in seemed like a harmless way for a former juggernaut to maintain relevance in the digital age.

But then came the tweets, most of which rewording something along the lines of “OMG U2 JUST COMITTED A HOSTILE TAKEOVER OF MY PRECIOUS MUSIC LIBRARY” when a simple Internet search could provide instructions to remove the files entirely. And of course there were the more savvy listeners who read the tweets and wondered why people were still using iTunes in the first place. And then there were the spectators who weren’t thinking about 80s arena rock or the state of music sales who now had a topic of conversation at the dinner table that spanned across three generations of audio consumption. And this is how U2 won the marketing battle: we didn’t talk about 99% of the worthy rock bands that released albums this year, but Bono and company somehow finagled their way into national attention once again.

For the record, Songs of Innocence still sleeps in my phone. I’m not going to go through the steps of removing it, because if I haven’t signed up for a paid streaming service at this point, there’s no hope for me in the future, anyway. I don’t plan on listening to it, either, not because I’m ideologically opposed to a shameless corporate tie-in from a band that doesn’t need the money (actually I’ll have to think about that some more), but because, as you can see above, I don’t like U2. But I will acknowledge the brilliance of a failed marketing campaign, even if it was manufactured by a band that hasn’t released a good album in thirty years. 

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