Business

British Music Retailers Declare War on U2

The Entertainment Retailers Association, a British trade organization spurned by the Irish rock superstars in favor of an exclusive deal with Apple, said this week that they can’t keep holding on to what U2’s got, when all they’ve got is hurt.

The Entertainment Retailers Association, a British trade organization spurned by the Irish rock superstars in favor of an exclusive deal with Apple, said this week that they can’t keep holding on to what U2’s got, when all they’ve got is hurt.

And you give yourself away, and you give yourself away …

More than a week after U2 decided to release its new album for free on iTunes, record shops in the United Kingdom still haven’t found what they’re looking for: an apology.

The band, which has ruffled some feathers by automatically loading its new album Songs of Innocence onto iPhones and iTunes playlists worldwide, ended up making a key trade group for British music retailers feel a tad, shall we say … numb. The Entertainment Retailers Association (ERA) argues it’s not the sweetest thing the band, nor its label Universal, has ever done, and that the strategy “devalues music” as a whole.

“This promotion is a failure on so many levels,” ERA Chairman Paul Quirk said in a statement. “It devalues music, it alienates the majority of people who don’t use iTunes and it disappoints those who prefer to shop in physical stores since few shops had U2 stock available.”

And while the band’s manager, Guy Oseary, has argued that the plan helped spur back catalog sales, the association described that situation as all rattle, no hum. While the band sold 6,047 copies of its 19 albums in the U.K. last week, all but 60 of those transactions took place online, meaning that U2 gave physical record stores essentially nothing out of the deal, and that’s all they got.

As for the ERA, the band took away a big sales opportunity from physical retailers, but they could not take their pride.

“This vindicates our view that giving away hundreds of millions of albums simply devalues music and runs the risk of alienating the 60 percent of the population who are not customers of iTunes,” Quirk added.

The band’s last album, No Line on the Horizon, was something of a forgettable fire, failing to connect with consumers the way earlier records had. The deal with Apple helped U2’s bank accounts pop—Bono and company reportedly received a $100 million payday—but it left the band, its label, and the tech giant staring at the sun a little too long. Earlier this week, Apple had to create a tool to allow consumers who could definitely live without U2’s new album to remove it from their accounts.

Whereever Apple goes, U2 lead singer Bono will follow. And that's why retailers are upset. (Isaac Brekken/Getty Images)

Ernie Smith

By Ernie Smith

Ernie Smith is the social media journalist for Associations Now, a former newspaper guy, and a man who is dangerous when armed with a good pun. MORE

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