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Apple's U2 Album Promotion Backfires

AUDIE CORNISH, HOST:

Apple users, whether you wanted it or not, the new U2 album has landed in your digital record collections.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "EVERY BREAKING WAVE")

U2: (Singing) If you go - if you go your way, and I go mine.

CORNISH: Last week, Apple released the album for free, part of a marketing push that was supposed to show off the company's cloud. The problem is it's a gift that some fans say they did not need Apple to be giving. NPR's Nathan Rott tells us why.

NATHAN ROTT, BYLINE: When Apple CEO Timothy Cook announced the free release of U2's album to iTunes users at a press conference with the band, he excitedly called it, quote, "the largest album release of all time." One Twitter user called it something else. Hi, Tim Cook, he wrote. My iPhone has a virus called U2. How do I uninstall it?

JANKO ROETTGERS: Many of them didn't actually know about the press conference. They didn't know what had happened. And they were wondering if somebody bought that - if somebody hacked their account. And they couldn't quite explain it.

ROTT: Janko Reottgers is a senior writer for GigaOm. He says that that sort of made the whole thing backfire for Apple, who, he says, was trying to show off their musical ties and do something hip - similar to what Samsung did with Jay-Z last year. If he's right, it wasn't a cheap backfire - free for you doesn't mean free for Apple. U2 didn't exactly give the album away.

ROETTGERS: There's some reports that the got a hundred million, as well as some guarantee for advertising for the album.

ROTT: Neil McCormick, a music critic for the Telegraph and a friend of U2's, told BBC Four that it wasn't just the money that made the deal a win for U2. It was a smart marketing move, too.

NEIL MCCORMICK: Their idea is how do you get penetration in a market that's, you know - where records aren't selling. How do you get people to hear the music?

ROTT: As for the people that weren't happy about getting a free chance to hear that music, well, McCormick says, his heart bleeds.

MCCORMICK: That's kind of a hipster, you know, tsunami of whinging because the biggest band in the world has put a free album in their box that they can listen to or not.

ROTT: After all, it's only a couple of swipes to delete. Nathan Rott, NPR News. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.