By now, you’ll have seen the news. U2 didn’t just close Apple’s latest press launch with a live performance last night: they announced that their new album was not only finished, but instantly available on iTunes as a free download.

Oh, and exclusive to the store – plus Beats Music and iTunes Radio – until 13 October. The freebie is available in 119 countries, with Apple CEO Tim Cook suggesting that the promotion’s notional reach is 500m people. Beyoncé has been well and truly out-Beyoncéd.

Bono and Cook bantered on-stage about the ‘Songs of Innocence’ album being not free, but paid for by Apple. Naturally, the commercial terms of the deal remain a secret for now.

The obvious comparison is Jay-Z’s $5m Samsung giveaway in 2013, but the U2/Apple promotion is structured differently: a lump sum paid to UMG and the band by Apple according to the Wall Street Journal, rather than a wholesale price per album download.

Instant reactions? U2 fans with iTunes accounts will be delighted, although fans having to figure out how to get those files on to Android smartphones may be complaining in the days ahead.

Meanwhile, non-fans may snark about the giveaway in the context of declining sales across U2’s last few albums, although the sheer scale of the deal – complete with the album’s first single soundtracking TV ads for Apple’s new products – should sink suggestions that it’s a desperate career move on the band’s part.

Music reduced to a cog in Apple’s efforts to lock people into its iTunes / iOS ecosystem? It’s not a new notion, and nor is the sense that Apple is prepared to spend big in order to secure big stars in the coming battle of exclusives with Spotify and other streaming services.

Talking of them, the press event in Cupertino was notable for its lack of Beats Music news. There was no announcement of a global rollout for the streaming service, and no mention of plans to bundle it with Apple’s new iPhone models. That said, the presence of a Beats Music icon on the homescreen of at least some of the demonstration devices hinted that preloading remains a possibility.

Yes, new devices. Apple unveiled two larger-screened smartphones: the iPhone 6 and iPhone 6 Plus. They’re faster, slightly slimmer, with better cameras and – in their 4.7 and 5.5-inch screens, an answer to the growing demand for ‘phablets’.

And then there was the Apple Watch (note: not iWatch) with its multiple configurations and straps, its customisable faces, and its fitness-tracking features. Both devices use the company’s new Apple Pay wireless payments system too, to buy products in the real world by tapping a payment terminal. The new iPhones go on sale on 19 September, but the Watch won’t be out until 2015.

Still, music at least sprang the biggest surprise of the night. Here was the back-row view of Bono and co performing their new single (which will also be used for the upcoming ad campaign):

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  1. I quite agree…the headline is ridiculous…no one can out Beyoncé-Beyoncé on this, she was the real innovator!

    Also, people WANTED her album and PAID a $20 a copy for it downloading away in the middle of the night when the album appeared. No one I know wants this U2 album at all and most people want it OFF their ITunes. Only 0.04% of people have downloaded this U2 album, so the assertion in the article that Droid users would want this U2 album is a FAIL. Their album was not wanted, it was forced on people. Beyoncé’s album was wanted, and was Brilliant in terms of artistry and in financial strategy on selling music, not giving it away like a used Kleenex…

    Beyoncé is ALWAYS TRUMP, to use the card playing analogy correctly….and she trumps whoever you want to name about these album release strategies, certainly!

  2. I agree with the other 2 posters. Beyoncé’s album release was a breath of fresh air in terms of how it was released, and the material was awesome. I believe out of the 500 million ITunes users, only 200k downloaded the U2 album. We’re talking about a free album here. Also, ITunes had to set up a program to remove the album at some people’s requests. I felt bad for U2 because I enjoy a lot of their music, but this was a huge miscalculation. It didn’t turn out well for U2 or Apple. Apple had to play a pretty hefty sum for the rights to the album for people to only complain.

  3. Are you serious? Out Beyoncéd Beyoncé?? Surely you jest!? The more applicable headline would be… “U2 TRIES To Pull A Beyoncé And Fail Miserably”.

    It was such a fiasco Apple had to create a support page JUST for the album’s removal. Yes it was ambitious… Unfortunately… It wasn’t thought out fully. 200k FREE downloads as opposed to 430k PAID downloads in the same timeframe. Out Beyoncéd Beyoncé lol how cute.

  4. Hi, cross Beyoncé fans! Just a bit of extra context: we’re a music industry site, so ‘trumps’ referred to the scale of the promotion: Beyoncé released her album by surprise, and U2 released their album by surprise AND gave it away for free. So the headline refers to that act of oneupmanship.

    We’re not making any judgements of quality – personally, I prefer the Beyoncé album by a country mile – nor was this piece saying which was more effective (as several of you have pointed out, and we’ve written about in subsequent pieces, the U2 promotion has misfired in a high-profile way due to the push aspect).

    tl;dr: WE’RE NOT HATING ON BEYONCÉ. She runs the world 😉

  5. If this is a music industry site, then give Beyoncé the CREDIT and respect that she deserves for her masterful and SUCCESSFUL surprise album release. That headline is incorrect in the use of Trump, period in comparing the two releases.

    U2 can never “trump” Beyoncé when the only thing that their release had more of was more albums sent out.

    The rest is utter fail, the public has revolted againist Apple and U2, that U2 album is now the most deleted album in history and critically is not acclaimed and even the money reputed to be paid to U2 is not more than Beyoncé made off of her actual release.

    LA Times and NY Times report U2 making about 30 million on that deal(the rest of the 100 million is ad budget), but Beyoncé cleared that 30million at least on her 50/50 split for sales with her label for her album and her own ITunes exclusive.

    In cards, the Trump suit cuts/wins over all other suits: in metaphors, to trump is to win a decisive total victory.

    U2 has too much fail in this situation to “Trump” Beyoncé whose release was an amazing total success.

    Choose a better headline in the future, and give credit where credit is due.

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