Apple's September 9th keynote ended with a concert from rock band U2 and the announcement that the band's latest album, Songs of Innocence, would be released for free on iTunes. What Apple somewhat touched upon, but didn't really mention, was that the album would be added automatically to every iTunes user's library whether the user wanted the album. When I first learned about this publicity move, I immediately checked the Music app on my iPad. Sure enough, there was U2's album sitting in my library, ready to be downloaded from Apple's servers. This move caused quite a stir online, yielding both positive and negative reactions, but mostly negative. The response was so strong that Apple created a support page with a step-by-step process on how to remove the album from one's iTunes library.
Apple Spilled U2 in my iTunes
I'm not really a fan of U2. They made some good singles, but I never actively sought out to listen to one of their albums in the past, and I probably won't in the future. When I first found Apple had spilled U2 in my iTunes, I didn't think too much of it. It was added to my iTunes cloud, and I could download it later whenever I want what whatever Apple device I choose. I enjoy free music and frequently check the Google Play Store, Amazon, and iTunes for new free music downloads. It helps me explore my musical tastes and branch out to find new artists. When Apple gave me a free album from what, in my opinion, is a moderately good artist I thought "Ok, free music. Great." If I didn't like some songs, I would just do what I do with every other song I don't like: I delete it from my library. No harm, no foul. Then I reflected upon the stunt Apple pulled with this U2 album a little more.
Apple Put U2 in my iTunes
I'm sure Apple had the best intentions in mind. CEO Tim Cook and even former CEO and the late Steve Jobs repeated that Apple has a passion for music, so releasing a brand new album exclusively on iTunes from the same band which Apple designed a special edition iPod for made sense. It's clear that Apple loves U2, and Apple wanted to share that love by giving U2's music to their users. Of course, Apple gets the side-effect of being able to tout that U2's album release is the largest in history at the same time. I imagine it's easy to say that when you force an album into the libraries of approximately 800+ million iTunes accounts. This action has broader implications, in my opinion.
What I can't get past, despite Apple's best intentions, is that Apple forced something on me and millions of other people without our consent. One quick look at Twitter shows confusion, anger, and feelings of an invasion of privacy at having this unknown U2 and their music mysteriously appear on people's iPhones, iPads, and iTunes libraries. Many didn't know it was the work of the very same company that sold them the products they use to listen to music, which Apple apparently paid upwards of $100 million to bring this album to everyone for free. Some people will brush this off as a case of others wining about getting something they didn't want for free, but I don't believe we should be so quick to dismiss this issue.
Harmless Intentions, Ominous Repercussions
This whole conundrum could have been easily avoided if Apple simply made the album free to download from iTunes and publicizing the album's availability instead of taking the short route and putting the album directly onto everyone's iTunes library. Even meaning the best, Apple has shown a potentially darker side of controlling an entire ecosystem and what power that holds. In this case, it was a harmless musical album - an album Apple was able to push out, virtually instantaneously, to millions of iTunes accounts world wide. Many of those that received this album had preferences set on their devices in such a way that the music was automatically downloaded to the device. Apple demonstrated its ability to put data on millions of devices regardless of customer consent whenever Apple wanted. This data could be anything from music, video, a much needed iOS software update, or even an app all because Apple deems it necessary be it for security, marketing, or whatever reason Apple wants. The implications, to me, are quite chilling.
Do I believe Apple has ill intentions to abuse this type of power? No. I hope Apple actually learned a valuable lesson about forcing something on their users and makes more careful, responsible decisions in the future. I do believe this is the biggest PR incident to happen with Apple since the Maps app fiasco in iOS 6 or the Antennagate debacle with the iPhone 4, but most of the press is missing the ramifications this forced album release shows: Apple can put whatever they want on your Apple-branded device, whenever they want. This ultimately leads to the question of, "How much does one trust Apple to make the right decisions from here on out?" Personally, I still hold a great deal of trust in Apple and hope they continue on with a responsible focus on security, quality, and integrity of their products.
What do you think about Apple's actions of placing this album in to your iTunes library? Is it no big deal? Are you concerned? Let me know in the comments down below!