500m people get album after hitting send

U2 released their first album in five years free last night on Apple’s iTunes, as the tech giant unveiled its latest smartphones.

The two-hour-long Apple event ended with a live performance by U2. The appearance by Bono and band mates, which had been rumoured, brought enthusiastic applause from the crowd.

U2 played a single from the new album, Songs of Innocence, which Apple announced it had sent out for free to half a billion iTunes customers around the world. The release of the album proved a headache for iTunes, however, as it experienced technical difficulties due to the number of people attempting to download it.

However, U2 stuck with tradition as the album was given its world exclusive airing in its entirety last night by Dave Fanning on his RTÉ 2fm radio show.

Frontman Bono described the album, the band’s first since No Line on the Horizon in 2009, as deeply personal and called the release “instant gratification”. “From the very beginning U2 have always wanted our music to reach as many people as possible. The clue is in our name I suppose — so today is kind of mind-blowing to us,” Bono said. “The most personal album we’ve written could be shared with half a billion people — by hitting send. If only songwriting was that easy.”

Apple said it would also give away the album for free to customers who set up iTunes accounts in the next five weeks. Chief executive Tim Cook touted it as the largest album release of all time.

While Apple did not disclose financial arrangements for the free release, U2 has collaborated for years on products with the iPod and iPhone company. The band could have expected major sales for a new album.

The release of the free album sparked a flurry of activity on the internet, with some criticising U2.

Irish alt-rock band Fight Like Apes tweeted: “Is the biggest band in the world giving away an album really the right message to be sending when so many bands are struggling to get people to appreciate records again so the industry doesn’t die on its feet?”


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