U2 Got Paid for iTunes Album Giveaway, Apple to Use Music in $100M Ad Campaign

Initial rumours of U2 playing a role in today’s Apple event were crushed, then revived at the last minute. Near the end of today’s event, the band had a surprise performance, followed up by the announcement 500 million iTunes users will get a free digital copy of the band’s upcoming album.

Speaking with TIME, U2 frontman Bono said “We were paid,” and “I don’t believe in free music. Music is a sacrament.” Of course U2 was paid—there’s no way they’d give away half a billion copies of their new album. Even at a conservative $10 per digital album, that’s $5 billion in sales for the album’s giveaway.

The Wall Street Journal reports Apple has plans to use the first single from the album as a central part of its worldwide, 30-day TV ad campaign to promote the iPhone 6 and Apple Watch, worth an estimated $100 million, according to sources.

Also, a couple things are unclear given the secrecy around this free giveaway: whether the album will qualify for the Billboard sales charts and also its instant multi-platinum status with the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA), which U2 did not consult with prior to their deal with Apple.

Were you able to download your copy of Songs of Innocence yet? We were able to download it in iTunes on our Mac, by going to Music > Purchased > Songs of Innocence.


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  • MikeJenkinson

    I would be very surprised if U2 got $10 per download from this promotion. I would think U2 doesn’t even get $10 from a standard album purchase from iTunes, as Apple generally takes, what, 30% off every iTunes sale? I suspect U2 got a very healthy amount, but I can’t see Apple shelling out FIVE BILLION DOLLARS for this album.

    But if they did, call the Guinness Book of World Records.

  • I’m just guessing at the sales numbers, not how much U2 would take. The record labels probably dictated the biggest cut anyways.

  • xxxJDxxx

    Album sales aren’t quite what they used to be these days, and U2 isn’t quite the band they used to be. My guess is that Apple offered them more than they anticipated making on the album.

  • MrDPrize

    did you receive the digital booklet?

  • U2 has one of the best record deals in the history of the industry, but they don’t get anywhere near $10 an album.

    Apple probably paid 5 – 10 million for the 30-day exclusive and the rights to use the music in ads. After that, the album will be sold and streamed everywhere, including physical editions.

    This deal isn’t about money for U2, but they wouldn’t do it for free either. They like Apple, they like technology and creative marketing, and they like having hit songs.

  • Depends what you mean by: “U2 isn’t quite the band they used to be”. Their last album was a critical success, but sold poorly by U2 standards. The tour was their biggest ever.

    In 2004, U2 was on the top of the world, and they made a similar deal with Apple. I don’t believe this deal had anything to do with making more money than just selling the album.

  • sukisszoze

    Apple probably sees this giveaway as customers acquisition cost for new customers who do not already have an iTune account. More iTune accounts will add more credit cards to drive their Apple Pay service. The customer demographics of U2 listeners including number of credit cards and spending habits would be key to Apple.