Thursday, 11 September 2014

U2 Giving Away New Album For Free: Insanity Or Genius?

Now THIS is something that I never thought I'd have to speak about: U2.

Seriously, U2 are a band that I normally avoid like the plague. I know them for literally one song ("Vertigo", which I thought was OK) and that's it. I don't dislike the band, but I never had a reason to care about them.

So this bit of news (that they had a new album out which they were releasing for free on iTunes from the 9th of September to the 13th of October) really surprised me...and also had me absolutely convinced that the band had gone completely mad. Let me try to sum up my thought process on this whole thing for you guys.

...Yes, I only knew this happened today. I don't pay attention to U2 at all, so this didn't even cross my radar until just now.

The reason I think the band are completely mad to have made this move is due to an analysis of the financial loss the band would be making to do this. Let us assume that the band's 18,080,827 Facebook likes all represent the band's fanbase number exactly (it's probably short of the actual number of U2 fans by a large number, but I'm doing basic maths here) and the album would have been available for £10 (I imagine it would have been a bit less, but, again, basic maths here). If we assume that about two thirds of the fans downloaded the album for free on iTunes, that's about £121 million which whoever gets the money from the iTunes download isn't going to get. Now, I know all of the money wouldn't go to the band, but, even if you work on the assumption that the band only gets 1p from the overall download (that's probably far too low, but, again, I'm working with simple maths here), that's still about £121 thousand that won't go to the band. To an artist that is as large as U2 is, that might be a tiny amount, but it's still a noticeable loss to most people. Throw in the fact that there are people like me who aren't U2 fans who will pick up the album out of curiosity due to it being free and that amount goes up even more. Now, I'm working from the context of a person who isn't in the same position that a member of U2 is, so I don't know how much the members get per year from royalties, tour amounts and all that, but, to a member of the general public, that's still a lot of money which the band are basically throwing away with this move.

However, there is a bit of a genius move behind all of this which I feel more than makes up for this loss. See, let's look at this from the viewpoint of the person who isn't in U2's situation: most of us have bills to pay, jobs which we have, money's tight due to the economy being pretty's not exactly an easy time for most people. So this move is actually a rather cool move from the band: they have saved us the worry of not being able to afford the album without having to fail to meet a bill or living requirement. For a fan of the band, this move is practically a godsend: you get the album for free and you still support the band. For someone who ISN'T already a fan of the band, however, this move has a potential benefit which I've not mentioned: if people get this album for free and like it, they might go on to pick up other albums by the band, go see them live or go on to become fans of the band. This is a risky move, on some levels: it's relying on the natural curiosity of people who want to get stuff for free, so, if the album is one which a person in a position of some authority and persuasion (like a popular online critic) does not like, they might put out a very negative review of it which will put off people from even getting the album for free. It also is taking the risk that there are people out there who haven't listened to U2 before, but would be willing to do so: if there aren't anyone who fall into that criteria, then there's no people to potentially go on to pick up the rest of the band's discography and go see them live who aren't already their fans. It is also risky in that, if the album itself is simply not a good representation of the band's usual sound (or is a poor album in general), people will get the wrong idea about the band from the album and will not go on to enjoy the band's discography, either due to dislike of their other albums or through the logic of "well, this sucks, why should I check out the rest of their stuff if I don't like this?" However, the benefits of this move are that people who hadn't bothered to check out the band due to financial reasons (which is a VERY tough thing to say, considering we now have Spotify and YouTube to make it easy to find and listen to new stuff) have no excuse not to do so and iTunes have caught on to the "if someone likes this, they might go on to listen to the rest of the band's stuff" logic by making U2's other material available on a limited time cheaper price (almost all of their studio albums are £4.99 at the minute, with the only exception being Rattle and Hum at £5.99). So, you could get U2's entire discography (while the offer is on) for £60.88. Which isn't exactly cheap when put that way, but, if you're just picking up one or two albums, that's £11 at most (Rattle and Hum and any other U2 album) out of your pocket.

So yeah...I think there's a lot of impressive logic behind this move. It's a bit of a risk, but I think it could potentially pay off for them in the long run if it works out. Even if it doesn't, the fact that the band apparently have a follow up album that they're working on which should be ready soon means that I think they've potentially mitigated any real damage that they could suffer from if the risk doesn't pay off. The acceptance of new media by U2 is really an impressive sign in a time when so many of their contemporaries (and most record labels) seem to consider new media to be a huge risk to them and leaves me with a lot of respect for them on a business level.

Does that mean I'm going to be a fan of them from now on? I doubt it, but I'll give their new album a few listens and do a review of it to see how it stands up. If I like it...then who knows?

...Incidentally, I have never studied accountancy, only got a C in my GCSE maths and didn't even pass my first year of A-level maths. Try to wrap your head around that if you think my maths and logical deduction here are rather good!

No comments:

Post a Comment