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Anger Over Songs Of Innocence

I’m with Waffle and Dan Wineman on this, and I think Peter Cohen really missed a lot of nuance.

Being angry about an album you were given for free does sound dumb, but due to the way iTunes purchase libraries work, that’s not the whole story. As far as most people can tell, purchases stick around forever. I didn’t even know you could hide purchases from your history until this, and I’m supposed to be an expert in Apple stuff.

The right way for Apple to do a big U2 promotional deal like this would have been to simply make the album free on the iTunes Store for a while and promote the hell out of that.

Instead, Apple set everyone’s account to have “purchased” this album, which auto-downloaded it to all of their devices, possibly filling up the stingy base-level storage that Apple still hasn’t raised and exacerbates by iOS’ poor and confusing storage-management facilities. And when people see a random album they didn’t buy suddenly showing up in their “purchases” and library, it makes them wonder where it came from, why it’s there, whether they were charged for it, and whether they were hacked or had their credit card stolen.

It was a sloppy, hamfisted execution uncharacteristic of Apple, much like the painfully awkward, forced, cheesy Tim/Bono marketing skit announcing this promotion that slaughtered the momentum of the otherwise very important iPhone 6/Pay/Watch event.

The damage here isn’t that a bunch of people need to figure out how to delete an album1 that they got for free and are now whining about. It’s that Apple did something inconsiderate, tone-deaf, and kinda creepy for the sake of a relatively unimportant marketing campaign, and they seemingly didn’t think it would be a problem.

It’s a breach of implied boundaries. It will cost them relatively little in the grand scheme of things, but in an area that’s extremely hard to recover: customer trust.


  1. It doesn’t even matter what you think of this particular album. There isn’t an album ever recorded that would have made enough people widely OK with this. “Every iTunes customer” is not only a lot of people, but it’s a lot of very different people. ↩︎

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