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.

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:

Corporate doublespeak

... 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...

Thanks to Ervins Strauhmanis for the image above.
tags: curation streaming itunes
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The Music Library Management blog

Dan Gravell

I'm Dan, the founder and programmer of bliss. I write bliss to solve my own problems with my digital music collection.