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What Can Your Company Learn From U2’s Free Album Distribution?

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u2 album apple promoFree Stuff Baby!!!

Whether you’re a rock enthusiast or a big band lover, there is a lot to learn from the Irish rock band U2. Why would an iconic band like U2 give away a brand new, highly anticipated album, to the whole world for free? I guess there are two reasons, they’re smart and they really get it. But did they go too far?

So what exactly do they get and how far did they go? I can’t think of a person or business, no matter how successful that at some point in time that doesn’t need to reinvent themselves or do something tactical to gain market interest. Let’s look between the lines and see if applying some of what U2 has done makes sense for an individual or business.

The New Buzz-Word is Freemium

The way people buy music is so different today than it was 10 years ago. Everybody downloads or streams music, they don’t buy albums or CDs like in years past. They buy only the songs they like on iTunes without buying an entire album, or they download music illegally. U2 stripped the profit away from music bootleggers and delivered an entire album to every single iTunes account for free. Maybe what they are doing is trying to create changeThat change just might be a freemium “giving away a premium product” with the hope of making money on other products, such as concert tickets. I bet their fans are happy and who knows maybe they’ll earn a few thousand more fans…

Reaching Your Audience and Beyond

Almost instantly, U2 now has the most widely distributed album in music history. iTunes has more than 500 million users, imagine if one-fifth choose to listen to the album.   Perhaps they’ll recoup the perceived lost profits.  Naturally, there will always be haters and people who question, why give me something I didn’t ask for or don’t want? It’s easy to see the positives, but is this “jam it down your throat” marketing plan a failed ploy?

Forward Thinking

What is the thought process of these Irish rockers? Let’s think about that… They will likely embark on a worldwide tour and I assume that will make old friends happy and perhaps they’ll make a few new ones. Also, this one freemium giveaway might cause those same friends to purchase future albums or concert tickets. Maybe what U2 is attempting to do is push a massive shift on the entire industry that could change the way music is delivered … only time will tell.

Catch Lightning in a Bottle Twice

Let’s be honest, the past isn’t often a view into what’s upcoming, but it can be. About ten years ago Apple introduced the iPod and it changed the way we buy and listen to music forever. If you recall, they had the coolest marketing campaign and U2 helped deliver the message with their hit Vertigo. I can tell you this much, I got an iPod and just about everyone else in the world did too. Think of how many people used this new technology to buy the song Vertigo. Fast forward ten years and these two giants of industry, have come together again to capture the attention of the music world… or did they make a whole lot of people mad?

Regardless of who you are or what your business is, there are so many thoughts to ponder in this mass marketing effort. Most importantly, they are reaching their target audience and beyond which is goal number one.

If you could get your brand in front of 500,000 prospects or even just 25,000 prospects, wouldn’t you take it? That type of exposure is sure to bring in more business.

U2 put a new spin on an old campaign that was off the charts successful and hope it can be repeated. At the end of the day, as consumers, we enjoy the freedom of buying what we want when we want through the channels we want. By giving away their new album for free, U2 is hoping to create that consumer want for more of their music and events that will drive revenue.

Time will tell if the free distribution beyond their normal fans will end up helping their brand at all. Will enough fringe U2 listeners now be more inclined to spend money on U2 because of this? Or will U2 damage its brand reputation by spamming people that never showed any interest in their product? Also, how will this effect Apple’s brand reputation as the distributor?

Think about this the next time you plan a free give away to attract business and make sure your offer is relevant.

Why would someone want this? How will you get it to them? And all the what if‘s both positive and negative.

Without pushing the boundaries and experimenting with new ways to reach today’s evolved consumers, it will be hard to gain real traction in the marketplace. Remember, when you embrace the concept of change, you might just create change.

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Pete is a founder and owner of Balance Point, with twenty years of industry experience.

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