There’s a reason why U2‘s Bono is considered such a showman. In the wake of the band’s controversial free launch of its new album, Songs of Innocence, through a free iTunes download, Bono participated in a Time cover story touting another Apple surprise: a “secret project…a new digital music format in the works [that] will prove so irresistibly exciting to music fans that it will tempt them again into buying music … boosting the music industry — and maybe even saving it.”
However, the actual “format,” which is intended to accompany the band’s next album, Songs of Experience, is decidedly less revolutionary. A source with knowledge of the situation tells Billboard that Bono’s use of the word “format” was a misnomer. “It’s not a new format, but rather a new way to package and present an album,” the source explains. “This is focused on creative advances, versus shifts in technology.” (Apple and the band declined to comment. Manager Guy Oseary deferred to Bono and Apple vp iTunes content Robert Kondrk.)
In Time, Bono, 54, claims Apple is working on “an audiovisual interactive format for music that can’t be pirated and will bring back album artwork in the most powerful way, where you can play with the lyrics and get behind the songs when you’re sitting on the subway with your iPad or on these big flat-screens. You can see photography like you’ve never seen it before.”
Apple has tread this path before with its iTunes LP and iTunes Extras formats. ITunes LP, introduced in 2009, gave labels and artists an extra creative arm for the presentation of digital albums, with exclusive material like interactive artwork. ITunes Extras offered similar functionality for films, with exclusive interviews and behind-the-scenes materials.
The launch of Songs of Innocence has also become a milestone moment in the music industry debate of access vs. ownership. By gifting the album to Apple’s 500 million iTunes customers, U2 has already achieved its goal of reaching as many people as possible with its new music — more than 38 million globally, as of Sept. 18. But even Apple has been forced to acknowledge that its automatic downloads aren’t for everyone, as the company introduced a tool to make it easier for removing Songs of Innocence less than a week after the album’s release.