U2's Bono Takes Full Responsibility for That iTunes Album Stunt

"Mea culpa"

Photo: Chris Bubinas

BY Sydney BrasilPublished Oct 24, 2022

Ah, 2014 — a time when Spotify had only just found its way to Canada and iPhones had maybe 64 GBs of memory. One September day that year, many people woke up to find their precious storage had been eaten up by an undeletable, mediocre U2 album that had been automatically downloaded. If this happened to you or a loved one, Bono wants you to know he's sorry. 

In an excerpt from his upcoming memoir Surrender: 40 Songs, One Story shared with The Guardian, the singer said he takes "full responsibility" for the stunt that landed U2's album Songs of Innocence onto every iPhone. Detailing a meeting between him, Apple CEO Tim Cook and U2 manager Guy Oseary, Bono said he proposed the tech giant "pay us for [the album], and then you give it away free, as a gift to people … like when Netflix buys the movie and gives it away to subscribers." 

Though Cook put forward his concerns, the automatic download plan was pushed forward, with many people taking to the internet to voice their concerns, or just full-on riff on the whole situation. In response to the backlash, Apple eventually created a tool to help iTunes users delete the album from their libraries.

"I take full responsibility," Bono wrote in his memoir. "I'd thought if we could just put our music within reach of people, they might choose to reach out toward it. Not quite. As one social media wisecracker put it, 'Woke up this morning to find Bono in my kitchen, drinking my coffee, wearing my dressing gown, reading my paper.' Or, less kind, 'The free U2 album is overpriced.' Mea culpa."

Bono also called the stunt "junk mail" and compared it to "taking our bottle of milk and leaving it on the doorstep of every house in the neighbourhood." He continued that analogy, saying, "we didn't just put our bottle of milk at the door but in every fridge in every house in town. In some cases we poured it on to the good people's cornflakes. And some people like to pour their own milk."

This is a big change in tune from Bono calling the stunt one of his "proudest" moments in the past. Whether or not you agree with the massive backlash both Bono and Apple received for the move, you can catch Bono's apology in real life at the upcoming Toronto stop of his book tour. 

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