… And try not to lose your shit over the potential partnership between two of your favorite things: Apple and U2.
Or so I’m telling myself in the wee hours of the night before 1) I teach three classes, and 2) a big iPhone announcement that maybe-possibly-hopefully-prettypleasewithsugarontopI’lldoalmostanythingtomaketheserumorstrue involves U2. Much to my surprise, however, many U2 fans don’t share my enthusiasm. Here’s why this collaboration is good for both parties:
For Apple, it’s a product announcement involving the company’s cash cow: the iPhone. This event would get media coverage even if U2 wasn’t involved. But more than that, teaming up with U2 brings some added pizzazz to what promises to be an already big day for the tech goliath. Of late, Apple keynotes, while still the gold standard for tech announcements, have been a bit dry, due in no small part to the absence of Steve Jobs’ charisma and presence in front of an audience. Samsung (grr) paired up with Jay-Z last year. How much the hip hop mogul actually boosted sales numbers is irrelevant; what’s important is that it the event lent a bit of “cred” to Samsung’s image and created additional buzz for its newest flagship phone. No offense to Jay-Z, but U2 is in a whole other league when it comes to global visibility and marketability. Regardless of what anyone says about relevancy, the relatively “disappointing” sales figures of 2009’s No Line On The Horizon, or a lack of an album in more than five years, U2 is still the biggest band on the planet. I can tell you from firsthand experience that Apple doesn’t like to be outdone. Getting U2 involved with the new iPhone (and potentially the Beats music service) outdoes anyone, anywhere, for years to come.
For U2, it gets the band back into the public consciousness immediately. It’s an instant marketing campaign that will help promote the new album and (eventually) the accompanying tour. I can recall going to the an early 360 show and seeing the Blackberry ads all over the stadium and being sorely disappointed in that joint venture. Besides the signs at concerts and logos on merchandise, what did BlackBerry (then called RIM) do to help the band generate buzz? Nothing. In 2009, RIM was already on the verge of technological irrelevance, to say nothing of its social cache. A partnership with Apple would also assuage the second Bono’s two fears: U2 not making good music and not being culturally relevant. The first should have been allayed earlier this year when “Ordinary Love” was nominated for Oscar and “Invisible” launched on Super Bowl Sunday (which I think, despite lukewarm critical and chart success, is a great song; I wrote about the song for @U2). Not only is Apple technological relevant, but the company also occupies a front-and-center public profile thanks in large part to the ubiquity of iPhones and iPods.
Additionally, teaming with Apple shows that the band has (once again) embraced the latest trends in digital media. In the early 1990’s, that was the whole ethos behind the groundbreaking Zoo TV tour, albeit with an ironic twist. A decade ago, U2 and Apple worked together when the latter was the undisputed king of mobile digital music. Before the iPhone, the iPod was Apple’s moneymaker, and U2 was in on it. There were several iPod commercials and products featuring the band: silhouette campaign (here’s the extended version), video iPod, and the special edition U2 iPod. Still need further proof that the Apple/U2 relationship is deep? Open up the Music app on in iOS and look at the “Artists” option at the bottom of the screen. Look familiar? Even through all the software updates and upgrades, it’s been Bono’s silhouette for years.
As for the issue of how the band will be involved tomorrow… well that’s a whole other discussion. In a nutshell, here’s what I envision for the partnership:
U2 is this announcement’s “one last thing.” Tim Cook announces a collaboration with U2 that includes a redemption code for the iTunes store. This code allows the new iPhone owner to download the band’s newest album (whenever that drops; I think October) that will feature digital content like music videos, interviews, and live performances. This would help boost sales figures, which would make both the band and the record company happy. Accompanying the new record be a new official U2 app that will be linked to a newly redesigned website that focuses on fan interaction. Behind the scenes footage, exclusive interviews and photos, unreleased tracks, digital wallpapers, along with a one-year subscription to the fan club, which will offer more goodies. The announcement ends with U2 playing a short set.
I’m trying not to get ahead of myself here, but the sheer excitement is making me thing crazy things. This is all “pie in the sky” speculation, of course, but it’s going on six years since the band’s last full-length studio record, so I think U2 fans will can be forgiven for getting a little giddy. All this conjecture does set us up for some massive disappointment, but such is the life of a die-hard fan.
This arrangement is a good thing, folks. It has the potential to be a game-changer. Odds are it won’t be the earth-shattering event my imagination has vividly outlined, but with these two global icons in cahoots, it’s not out of the realm of possibility. Both Apple and U2 have been game-changers for their respective fields. Who’s to say it can’t happen again tomorrow?