U2’s ‘Songs of Innocence’ stunt paid off after all

Members of U2, shown at an awards ceremony in Berlin in November, cheered news that people who received their “Songs of Innocence” album unrequested on Apple iOS devices last year were still listening to the music in January.
(John Macdougall / AFP/Getty Images)

Members of U2 probably aren’t laughing, but they appear to be having the last smile in the brouhaha over last year’s unannounced installation of their latest album, “Songs of Innocence,” onto several hundred million iPhones and other Apple iOS devices.

A new independent study shows that despite all the jokes (some pundits suggested it should have won the Grammy Award for “most deleted album”), in January, more iOS device owners listened to music from U2 than from Taylor Swift or any other artist.

The survey conducted by the Kantar Group noted that 95% of iOS users who listened to any U2 music on their devices listened to one or more songs from “Songs of Innocence.”

“This is fantastic news,” U2 singer Bono said in a statement. “If these figures suggest that these songs still matter to people, then we’re knocked out. That’s all any songwriter wants.”


The band offered up a public apology for the installation of the album without users’ permission after the stunt generated considerable negative publicity. By traditional measurements, “Songs of Innocence” was a disappointment, peaking at No. 9 on the Billboard 200 Albums chart and dropping off that listing after just eight weeks.

It may simply reflect the dictum “If you install it, they will listen,” but Kantar’s survey said 23% of all music iOS users accessed in January -- two months after the publicity and marketing stunt in which Apple distributed “Songs of Innocence” to iPhone users for free, and without their permission -- was U2 music.

The figure was more than double that of second-place finisher Swift, whose music accounted for 11%, followed by Katy Perry and Maroon 5 (8% each), and Rihanna (7%).

Those results were based on a group of 2,510 iOS users, and a subset of 978 iOS panelists who listened to any music in January.


Follow @RandyLewis2 on Twitter for pop music coverage.

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