This article originally appeared in the 9.18.14 issue of Metroland
This week let’s tear down without building up.
For years, U2
has been at the forefront of the idiot chatter about the evils of the internet
and downloading music.
The band and especially
its manager, Paul McGuinness, would regularly sound off about how Google could
easily stop “piracy” and how all this business about “free music” was an insult
to musicians and was devaluing music, and that music is sacred and yada yada
These pronouncements were
some of the most stupid and tone-deaf music-biz drivel out there.
And they were rightfully ignored, because
what they said really didn’t matter.
And so how
odd that last week, as part of Apple’s big unveiling of the iPhone 6 and the
Apple Watch, here’s U2 playing a new song and then sharing a chummy onstage
announcement with Tim Cook that Apple is giving away U2’s new album to everyone
who has the iTunes program.
most of us.
And as you are probably
painfully aware, this isn’t a situation where you can go to some website and
download the album, or buy a newspaper and get a free CD.
Nope, Apple instead dropped the album into
everyone’s iTunes cloud account (which many people, including myself, didn’t
realize they had), and depending on the settings for the cloud account you may
not have known you had, the album typically loaded automatically into your
computer or phone.
You own the new U2 album, like it or not.
reactions were immediate and damning.
And for good reason.
stuff, any kind of stuff, rammed down their throats.
Nobody wants their music library messed with.
That Apple thinks it can just stick stuff on your machine, and that U2, of all
people, are cool with it, is just mind-bogglingly wrong.
As one commentator said: “a gift on my
doorstep is one thing. A gift that you left in my house, after letting yourself
in, is something different.” Apple’s
notion of personal privacy appears to be different than ours.
And we learn that a
great many younger folk have no idea who U2 even is. The website whoisu2.com contains thousands of
tweets from outraged teenagers around the world, asking who is U2 and why are
they (or him, or it) on my phone? It’s
hysterically funny. This is not how one
builds a fan base.
U2’s reaction has been
clueless. The band’s new manager Guy
Oseary (McGuiness retired last year, replaced with this young guy who used to
work with Madonna, which ought to tell you something) said: “If you don’t like
this gift, you should delete it.” Duh,
right. Except apparently getting rid of
the album isn’t that easy. Online how-to articles popped up with titles
like How To Get That Awful U2 Album Off Your Computer; after a few days,
Apple mercifully issued a one-step removal patch so folks could ditch the
album from their phones and computers.
Bono, ever prone to
the misdirected faux-heroic statement, said this:
"For the people
out there who have no interest in checking us out, look at it this way: The
blood, sweat and tears of some Irish guys
are in your junk mail.
How very nice.
And to the allegation that all of this flies
in the face of U2’s prior damning of free music?
Why, the album isn’t free, you see, because U2 got paid for it
The latest estimate I’ve seen is that Apple
paid U2 120 million dollars for the right to infect your devices with the U2
That’s a whole lot of blood,
sweat and tears, Bono.
And it’s still
free music, dude.
To everybody but you.
ridiculous, avoidable, bone-headed situation.
I suppose that it’s great that U2 got paid, although that’s an obscene
amount of money for an album, especially these days.
Innovative ways of getting music into
consumers’ hands is good, too.
From Apple’s perspective,
what were they thinking?
trying to deal with the fall-out from the massive hack of photos from iCloud a
couple of weeks ago and now they want to demonstrate how easy it really
And U2 is cool with having their
precious, sacred music reduced in people’s eyes to a nasty computer virus?
I love Apple, I use their
stuff and wouldn’t think of switching.
Not yet anyway.
And I generally
like U2, have liked them since I saw their very first US appearance at the Ritz
in NYC in 1980.
I don’t even mind Bono’s
bloviating to world leaders about world hunger and stuff.
I do object, however, to those goofy glasses
he wears, those plastic things that look like those big sun-glassy things old
ladies wear over their glasses.
up with those?
was just about the dumbest thing either Apple or U2 have ever done.
And that’s saying something.
Nothing good will come of this, except that
something like this will never happen again.
And both Apple and U2 got some ‘splainin to do.
Paul Rapp is a frisky local
entertainment attorney who would swing baseball bats on TV whilst telling you
how great he is if he thought it would do any good.