Apple and the U2 album push: from announcement to denouncement in less than 48 hours

It’s an Apple sort of week. Apple Watch, Apple Pay and Apple’s final grand gesture on Tuesday: giving the new U2 album to all iTune users. For free!

But wait! Apple decided to go beyond free and automatically downloaded the entire album to every iPhone. And lo and behold, that grand gesture wasn’t well received. Search U2 on Twitter and see for yourself how strong the backlash is.

A few responses on Twitter. Search for U2.

A few responses on Twitter. Search for U2.

I’m guessing the decision to push the entire album to every iPhone owner went something like this: a room full of rock fans, who are mostly 30-50 years old, who remember when U2 conquered America with the fantastic album “The Joshua Tree” and, here’s the kicker, can’t even imagine that there is anyone out there who could possibly not be a U2 fan. This group is so sure that everyone knows who U2 is, that it cannot imagine anyone would be against getting a U2 album for free. So the decision is made to not only give the album away for free but to push it out to every iPhone user, a unique process usually used for security updates or pre-approved (by the user) app updates.

Now, I realize I’m making quite a few leaps of assumptions in the paragraph above. I am allowing myself these assumptions because I would have made exactly the same ones. In my mind, U2 is one of the greatest bands of all time, who wouldn’t want U2’s latest album? One I’ve waited for for almost five years? Yes, indeed! Let’s make sure everyone has it right away.

And that’s exactly the point where we allow our personal biases and preferences to get in the way of sound product decisions. It also takes me back to a point I made a few weeks ago about diversity: we need people in the room that have the ability to say wait, this is not a good idea. It’s not a great idea to violate our users’ privacy for the sake of a publicity stunt. Even if the band is U2.

Finally, what’s interesting about this stunt-gone-wrong is how quickly and massively the entire range of responses started appearing. Half a billion users got the album automatically in a very short period of time and many of them took to Twitter and let their opinion be known. Bloggers and journalists caught wind right away and this became a story. From announcement to denouncement in less than 48 hours. Incredible.


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