U2’s New Album – Changing the Way Music is Released

So I’m really digging U2’s new album, Songs of Innocence. The music, of course, is awesome as usual for U2.

I’m also blown away by two things they do:

1. How the heck do they always sound modern? On everything they’ve ever released, they always sound like themselves – it always sounds like U2. But they also sound very modern. Songs of Innocence in no exception. My 14-year old, when she heard it, agreed with me – they sound like a bunch of bearded 20-somethings playing modern pop. But … they’re all in their 50s.

How do they do that?

2. Their iTunes release is radically different. U2 just released their new album to 500 million people. For free. Because of this, they probably won’t be in the Billboard top 100 any time soon (Soundscan, etc won’t count this most likely).

And U2 really doesn’t care. Because, you know. 500 million people.

What’s so different about this release? It’s “prepaid.”

In some ways, U2’s iTunes release isn’t much different from a Kickstarter campaign. Using Kickstarter, individuals pay for a band to record and release new music – sorta like a sponsorship (just a sponsorship by many people). In U2’s case, Apple paid the band.

In both cases, the band is paid to create and release music. They’re NOT paid for sales or for how much people like it after-the-fact. They are being paid to create – before-the-fact. Prepaid.

That’s a good thing, I think. In a weird sort of way, this moves us all the way back to how royalty sponsored composers and musicians hundreds of years ago.

Prepaid music. Paid to create. Cool idea!

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David Lee King

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