When U2’s latest LP landed unbidden into half a billion iTunes account on September 9, not everyone was grateful for the freebie, and Apple had to swiftly release a removal tool. Katie Wright looks back on the gift that turned into a gaff
Offering albums for online listening ahead of their release date happens all the time now, but Apple’s latest stunt went way beyond a temporary Soundcloud stream: U2’s Songs Of Innocence was beamed directly into the accounts of some 500m iTunes users in 119 countries, no download necessary.
The global “gift” was timed to coincide with CEO Tim Cook unveiling the iPhone 6 at their annual shindig in California, at which the Irish rockers - whose music first soundtracked an iPod TV ad 10 years ago - played. Apple, who bought the 11-song set for an estimated £62m, claimed it was “the largest album release ever” and frontman Bono boasted it’s “the most personal album we’ve ever written”.
But almost immediately, angry expletive-laden rants and sarcastic Bono-bashing one-liners flooded Twitter as users discovered their unwanted present.
Within 48 hours, guides started appearing on tech and music sites, gleefully explaining how to hide the offending article, as it couldn’t be permanently removed. Then, six days into the backlash bonanza, Apple were forced to set up itunes.com/soi-remove, where you’ll find a ‘remove album’ button.