U2 appears to have so little confidence in the old model for selling music that the band has decided it is better off giving away its new album than bothering trying to get people to buy it. Apple was more than happy to pay whatever it took for the company to secure exclusive rights to distribute the free download to people with an iTunes account. The irony in this exercise is that Apple profoundly understands the need to meet or exceed expectations much better than U2 does. The band bitched at fans over the luke-warm reception their last album got. The iPhone 5c was Apple's hardware equivelent of No Line On The Horizon. They learned from it and moved on. The 6 and the 6 Plus will have to score big points with devout iPhone users and sap the momentum other smart phone makers built up by exploiting a desire for larger screens while Apple clung to a uniformly small screen for it the 6's to be Apple's next Joshua Tree. The read on how good it is will be rapid and verifiable because nobody will be giving them away. Even subsidized carrier deals will eventually exact more than the full retail value from each subscriber. How good U2's new album actually is will take longer. With the potential for more than a half billion people to get it for nothing, numbers are rather meaningless. The real measure whether the album is as good as Bono wants us to believe it is will be in finding out how many songs people who download the album think deserve to occupy a space on their phone in the long term. Hold the phone for that read.
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