Songs of Innocence - what it tells us about music 'ownership'
There's been much discussion and commentary in the past couple of weeks about Apple's free download of U2's new Songs of Innocence album. Following an announcement at the iPhone 6 and Watch event, Apple made the album available to all iTunes customers. Overnight, this album began appearing in people's music libraries.
The reaction was not overwhelmingly positive.
Hi @tim_cook my iPhone has a virus called "U2" how do I uninstall it?— Owen Williams (@ow) September 11, 2014
Sorry to sound like Grandad but the new U2 album just showing up in my iTunes by magic is freaking me out! #CheckItOut— graham norton (@grahnort) September 12, 2014
Everyone's scared of MI6 and GCHQ accessing our phones, but I'd rather that than be forcibly given a U2 album.— Matt Richardson (@MattRichardson3) September 12, 2014
So, an invasion of privacy, or just first world problems?
I think this speaks of two things. The first, obvious, thing is an example of how people want to maintain control, and the sudden appearance of a new album, albeit free, in their music collection is unsettling.
However, the second thing is the very fact that it is unsettling indicates the target of this loss of control - our music collections - must be pretty important to us. For us to wake up one day and suddenly find an - alien - album in there is clearly a bit too much for some people.
People see their music library as more than pile of CDs, a stack of records, or a hard drive of bytes. Their music library is something they have curated over a long period. When you look at your music library you see memories, stories, good times and bad. They see a music library of carefully chosen (and sometimes not so carefully chosen) music, not the equivalent of a supermarket sweep trolley of music.
Set against that, for a faceless corporate to plonk an unselected album with no reason is tantamount to an invasion of privacy.
The worst part is the corporate double speak on the official Apple page:
... Never before have so many people owned one album...
Clearly Apple's definition of owned is not one that many others buy into.
If you must buy into cloud based music streaming services, this is what you are opening yourself to. I'm sure that not every service will do this, and undoubtedly streaming offers its own benefits. But by ceding control to the streaming service, you are at their mercy.
Finally, as a postscript, I don't want to be cynical, but...
After the massive surprise launch of 'Songs of Innocence,' U2's back catalog has seen a dramatic chart bump: http://t.co/G8yGDrLOkX— Rolling Stone (@RollingStone) September 14, 2014
Thanks to Ervins Strauhmanis for the image above.