That’s a tough assessment to make because no album has ever been released in the way that Songs of Innocence was. The metrics for success or failure just don’t exist. (In case you were abducted by aliens, U2 issued it free and automatically through iTunes back on September 9).
Here’s what we do know:
- Songs of Innocence was pushed out to 500 million iTunes subscribers a free download.
- If you had “automatically download music purchases” enabled, you got the record. If you didn’t, Songs remained just a potential download–which means that not all 500 million people actually received the album in their iTunes account.
- How many got it? Well, the spin we got this week is that 81 million people “experienced” the album. That’s brilliantly nuanced use of the word “experience,” isn’t it?
But however you want to look at this, getting an album into the hands of at least 81 million people in a month is a staggering accomplishment. It brought both U2 and the band a ton of press coverage (not all of it positive, of course)–and U2 apparently saw iTunes sales of their back catalogue spike considerably. That’s a success by any measure.
Apple’s free window on Songs of Innocence closes Monday night. Come Tuesday, the physical version of the album will go on sale. That edition will come with ten additional tracks not available on iTunes. A preview of those 10 songs can be found here.