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The Entertainment Retailers Association is even more angry than you about that U2 album

By | Published on Tuesday 16 September 2014


So, you’ve probably already deleted U2’s ‘Songs Of Innocence’ album from your iTunes account, thanks to Apple’s latest innovative tech solution. And you probably laughed at Apple’s warning that clicking the ‘kill’ button would mean that you might risk having to pay for the long player when you finally saw the error of your ways.

Well when that does happen (because it definitely will), be a sport and buy a CD copy from your local high street CD retailer. It’ll cheer the Entertainment Retailers Association up no end. Because, as previously noted, music retailers generally don’t like it when artists do exclusivity deals with one of their competitors, and even more so when that deal involves a brand paying the artist a chunk of cash so the consumer gets the record for no pounds.

As previously reported, word has it that U2’s label Universal has held back some tracks that will appear on the version of the album that goes on general release, in a bid to placate non-iTunes music sellers. And one or two of Apple’s competitors may also benefit from track exclusives. Meanwhile some have been saying that all the hype around Apple’s big U2 giveaway will surely be good for back catalogue sales, from which everyone else benefits.

But no, says ERA, which this morning hit out at Apple, U2, Universal, and anyone else who might have been involved in the ‘Songs Of Innocence’ stunt. The trade group, which counts CD sellers, download stores and streaming platforms amongst its membership, though no iTunes, says that Official Charts Company data shows that the big U2 freebie fest prompted just 6047 sales of the band’s pre-existing nineteen albums. And of those 6000 odd sales, just 60 transactions took place in high street stores (possibly because said shops had no warning about the Apple tie-up, so stocks were low).

Picking up the story from this point, ERA Chairman Paul Quirk says: “This vindicates our view that giving away hundreds of millions of albums simply devalues music and runs the risk of alienating the 60% of the population who are not customers of iTunes. If one of the justifications of this stunt is that it would drive sales of U2’s catalogue through the market as a whole, then so far at least it has been a dismal failure”.

He continues: “This promotion is a failure on so many levels. It devalues music, it alienates the majority of people who don’t use iTunes and it disappoints those who prefer to shop in physical stores since few shops had U2 stock available”.

Really driving the point home, he adds: “Giving away music like this is as damaging to the value of music as piracy, and those who will suffer most are the artists of tomorrow. U2 have had their career, but if one of the biggest rock bands in the world are prepared to give away their new album for free, how can we really expect the public to spend £10 on an album by a newcomer?”

Of course, despite the U2-to-iPhone frenzy, the band might still shift copies of their new record once it goes on proper release. According to the OCC, 87% of sales of U2’s last album, ‘No Line On The Horizon’, were physical. Sure, that was 2009, but it does still suggest that U2’s fans are mainly technophobe fuddy-duddies who wouldn’t know an iPhone if it pushed a notification through their letterbox.