81 million iTunes customers have listened to, or in Apple's own words, "experienced" U2's latest album, Songs of Innocence, during a free (and ongoing) promotional giveaway. That number factors in downloads in addition to streams from iTunes Radio and Beats Music, according to Billboard. Apple VP Eddy Cue recently gave the music publication an update on the "biggest album release in music history," adding that Songs of Innocence has been downloaded in its entirety 26 million times.
Yes, there were many complaints about the way Apple went about things; letting itself into the music libraries of customers wasn't the company's finest decision. But the results are exactly what Apple and U2 wanted: a whole ton of people listened to an album they otherwise might never have bothered with. And a decent number of them decided it was worth keeping and hit the download button. Unsurprisingly, Eddy Cue is eager to point all this out. "To help put this into perspective," Cue told Billboard, "prior to this, 14 million customers had purchased music from U2 since the opening of the iTunes Store in 2003." He's the man in charge of iTunes, after all, so Cue likely played a big part in coming up with the grand idea along with U2's management. Jimmy Iovine reportedly also helped make it happen.
Apple's Songs of Innocence giveaway runs through October 13th. After that, it'll presumably become available elsewhere (like Amazon) and fans will have to start paying for it. If you want nothing to do with U2 or Apple's generosity, don't forget there's a tool to permanently wipe the album from your library. Just remember it's not the last we'll hear from this combo: next up is "transforming the way music is listened to."