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.