Monday, September 15, 2014

Removing U2’s “Songs of Innocence”

Kirk McElhearn and others have shown how to hide the album in your account via the Recent Purchases screen. Apparently, a lot of people want to do this because Apple went to the trouble of creating a special URL to make this even easier:

I don’t have a problem with the U2 promo per-se, but I certainly don’t want unsolicited free albums showing up in my library on a regular basis.

Update (2014-09-15): Andrew Hampp (via Josh Centers):

With lead single “The Miracle (Of Joey Ramone)” set to be featured in a massive media campaign from Apple, valued at $100 million by multiple sources, U2 has already scored arguably the biggest launch in music history. And it’s one that’s already fraught with a little controversy, from angry retailers to Grammy and SoundScan guidelines. Oseary, 41, rang Billboard on Sept. 11 to address the many questions about the launch, and what’s next (another album?) from this landmark deal with Apple.

Nick Heer:

Sure, it’s “historical” for 500 million people to own a single album all at the same time. But there’s a huge difference between 500 million people buying an album and 500 million people being given an album. We buy albums we like or might potentially like, from artists that we already know or look interesting. I wasn’t planning on buying this record, yet I now own it. That’s weird, and not in a “pleasant surprise” kinda way.


Apple knows that music is both powerful and personal, they have highlighted that they think both customization and privacy are important and they have made a big fucking deal about their services to the user being in service of the user and not for some other ulterior motive. Apple could have asked “do you want this?”, but they didn’t, and the reason they didn’t was exactly because then they couldn’t help their friends chase a bogus world record.

Dan Wineman:

We’ve surrendered the physical trappings, but the connotations remain. And I think Apple didn’t see this because — no matter how deeply they insist music runs in their DNA — from the perspective of the iTunes Store, “library” means licensed content the user is currently authorized to stream or download. But due to various design decisions Apple’s made over the years, that’s not what it means to anyone else. I’d wager that to a majority of iTunes users, “library” means my personally curated collection of stuff that I enjoy and feel comfortable associating with my identity. Messing with that is, to be frank, nothing short of a violation.

Marco Arment:

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 damage here isn’t that a bunch of people need to figure out how to delete a (really quite bad) album 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.

Update (2014-09-16): Daniel Jalkut:

I tend to agree with Marco Arment’s take, both about it being a mistake to overlook the nuances of this situation, and that the nut of the problem, the part especially worthy of scrutiny by Apple’s fans, is the extent to which this move, and the threat of more moves like it, erodes our trust that the company has our best interests at heart.

Steven Frank:

It’s that my various document libraries, and especially my iTunes library, are sacred. You DO NOT touch them. If I entrust them to your cloud service, you double-triple especially DO NOT touch them.

This “free gift” could have just as easily been issued as a redemption code, and nobody would have minded. Instead it was pushed into everyone’s library apparently just so the band could brag about having the most widely-“owned” album of all time. It had that layer of marketing slime on it that most Apple promotions do not.

Dave Winer:

For a company that makes products that are supposedly about personal creativity, they seem to focus on elite creativity a bit too much. I suspect in their minds, the people who run Apple, and the people who run U2, our function is to admire them, and accept our own mediocrity.

Chuq von Rospach:

If you bought a Windows-based PC anytime in the last 15 years, it came with a lot of software put there “for your convenience”. It was generically known as crapware, and it was because PC vendors were paid to stuff it down your throat, even though you didn’t ask for it. This is a tactic generally reviled by people who had to try to clean all of that stuff out for their less tech savvy family members.

Apple was a company that even marketed itself as above that kind of activity, because they were.

Update (2014-09-17): John Gruber:

Did anyone among Apple’s leadership raise questions about this promotion? Regarding either the “we’ll just add it to everyone’s purchased music” thing that has so many people upset, or, the way the whole thing was a complete and utter distraction punctuating the otherwise nearly flawless iPhones/Pay/Watch event.


The “free cassette” image was just a digital fabrication, however, an altered version of a vintage Argos catalog as from 1986 (viewable on the Retroash web site).

Update (2014-10-15): Dave Mark quotes Bono:

Oops, um, I’m sorry about that…This beautiful idea. Might’ve gotten carried away with ourselves. Artists are prone to that kind of thing. Drop of megalomania. Touch of generosity. Dash of self promotion. And deep fear that these songs, that we’ve poured our lives into the last few years, mightn’t be heard. There’s a lot of noise out there. I guess we, us, we got a little noisy ourselves to get through it.

2 Comments RSS · Twitter

I'm amazed someone at Apple thought it was a good idea to mess with everyone's iTunes library, even for adding free music to it. At the very least, they should ask first.

That it is not obvious how to remove it is probably the worst part of it: it'll leave a bunch of people not panicked enough to search and find this fix but who will constantly be irritated when see the song they don't want in their library. And it'll be iTunes's fault.

[…] This totally unsurprising after the U2 promotion. […]

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