Wednesday 16 January 2019

Music shouldn't be free Bono, but I'm still excited about the new album

Here's where the geniuses come out.

"Another U2 album?" "Are they even relevant anymore?" "Do we have to put up with Bono for another year?"

Well, the answer is 'yes' - to all of the above.

Millions of fans worldwide have been waiting a long time for U2 to get their act together. We'd heard rumours about an impending deal with Apple, but none of us really expected what would happen last Tuesday night at the annual Apple product announcement launch in sunny California.

Let's leave the tech details aside. All you need to know is that U2's 13th studio effort, Songs of Innocence, is now available to more than half a billion customers on iTunes.

And, it's free. Good Lord. What would the lads at Freebird Records have to say about that?

A colleague of mine lamented the loss of the traditional U2 midnight queues at record stores around the country. You know, when the real fans would stay up past their bedtimes to be the first to own a copy of the new album and get their faces in the paper the following morning. Good times.

We'll probably see it again when Songs of Innocence (the physical copy) hits shelves on October 13th. But will it be the same? Not likely.

A new U2 record is cause for celebration, for sure. But am I the only one who isn't fond of this whole 'have the album for free' business?


We're talking about the devaluation of music here. Sure, it's likely that Bono and the lads signed a lucrative deal with Apple, long before any of us got wind that the most powerful technological company in the world might pull the greatest rock 'n' roll stunt of 2014.

So U2 will still get paid. Obviously. The marketing isn't over - this is only the beginning.

But just because you can release an album for free, doesn't mean you should. Rock 'n' roll is a job - how are the big bands of the future supposed to survive if their elders are sending out a message that it's okay for your fans not to pay for product?

If U2 was only starting out, would they even consider giving away five years' worth of work, free of charge? Of course not.

On Tuesday night, Twitter was awash with opinions. The smart-asses and begrudgers were out in full force.

Full disclosure here: I am a big U2 fan and it bugs me when people criticise the band for the wrong reasons.

Some suggested they should have broken up years ago. Others brought up the infamous tax issue. Most complained about the incessant coverage.


Sorry, hold on a second. Here we have a band of musicians that have never once rested on their laurels. A new album every four or five years, revolutionary tours, film soundtracks - you name it, they keep doing it.

Basically, the world's most-famous rock band is currently at the centre of a ground-breaking album release - the largest ever of its kind, in fact. And, that band is from Dublin.

I have my own issues with how they released their album, but U2 is still a pretty big deal.

Here's what's important - on first listen, Songs of Innocence is damn good. In fact, and a great deal better than the tepid No Line on the Horizon.

Ah yes, there's nothing like a new U2 record to get people talking. Watch what happens if they announce a residency at Croker…

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