Apple announced yesterday that it will be giving away U2's new album to everyone with iTunes, but its partnership with the band isn't stopping there. In a note on U2's website, Bono says that his band is going to continue to work with Apple on "some cool stuff over the next couple of years." In particular, Bono says that they'll be working with Apple on "innovations that will transform the way music is listened to and viewed." It's a vague statement, but a hugely ambitious one too. "We’ll keep you posted," Bono writes.
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U2 has a long history of working with Apple, so the ongoing partnership should be of little surprise. Apple continues to work with Bono's Product Red charity, and Apple even released a U2-branded iPod back in 2004. While Apple and the band haven't strictly worked to "transform the way music is listened to" just yet, one could argue that they started to do just that yesterday, with Apple purchasing a huge quantity of U2 records and placing them inside of every iTunes library out there. That's definitely transformative, if not a bit strange, having a huge corporation casually dictating everyone's taste in music. It's also not strictly an original idea: this is basically what Samsung did with Jay Z's Magna Carta Holy Grail, only Apple's deal is far less cool and is being given away to far more people.
Apple obviously has a history with changing our relationship to music, though, so this is a natural enough area for it to be interested in. That said, it hasn't had quite as much luck since the iPod: its music-centric social network Ping fell flat on its face, it's not clear if anyone actually uses iTunes LP (which tries to digitally recreate the experience of opening up a vinyl record), and iTunes Radio is more a novelty than a competitor to the likes of Pandora and Spotify at this point.
On a separate note, Bono also makes a point of mentioning that Apple has in fact paid for the albums that it's giving away — so while it's free to iTunes users, it isn't free from the band. "If no one's paying anything for it, we’re not sure 'free' music is really that free," Bono writes. "It usually comes at a cost to the art form and the artist… which has big implications." Bono's quick to note that those implications won't mean much for U2 itself, but for musicians in the future who still need to find a way to support themselves while creating music.