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Exclusive: U2 Manager Guy Oseary Talks ‘Songs of Innocence’ Rollout & Strategy Shift

Tuesday's release of U2's Songs of Innocence was a surprise for numerous reasons, starting with the fact that it was given away as a free download to all of Apple's 500 million iTunes customers for…

Tuesday’s release of U2‘s Songs of Innocence was a surprise for numerous reasons, starting with the fact that it was given away as a free download to all of Apple’s 500 million iTunes customers for the next five weeks. But its track list raised the eyebrows of a few U2 die-hards, who may have been expecting a slightly different album at the top of the year.

U2’s Surprise ‘Songs of Innocence’: Album Review

That’s when U2 was in the midst of a mini-promo blitz around its Oscar-nominated song “Ordinary Love” from Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom, as well as “Invisible,” an original song premiered via a Super Bowl spot that helped raise more than $3 million for Bono’s charity (RED) with the aid of Bank of America. The band later played the song during the premiere of The Tonight Show With Jimmy Fallon, suggesting “Invisible” would be the lead single from an imminent album.


But once album and touring plans were shelved in March, a new plan was put in place that ultimately led to Tuesday’s landmark announcement. Speaking with Billboard from Cupertino, Calif., moments after U2’s big reveal, manager Guy Oseary had this exclusive quote about the strategy shift:

“Certain opportunities presented themselves, and [the Super Bowl] was the one we were ready to go with and felt right about for [the (RED)] campaign. The band worked on this album for five years, and the idea of doing a few things early on in the year just to connect back with the audience that something was coming. We did Jimmy Fallon, we launched that, we also did the Mandela soundtrack and performed at the Oscars, just a few things to keep them active early in the year. In the last few months, we’ve been connected with Apple and they are so collaborative and forward-thinking, and have a really strong relationship with the band. It all came together very organically.”

Debuting all-new music seems to be a wise approach for Songs of Innocence, as neither “Ordinary Love” nor “Invisible” set many charts ablaze. As of early March, “Ordinary Love” had sold 115,000 copies, peaking at No. 99 on the Billboard Hot 100 and No. 45 on the Digital Songs chart for the week ending March 2. “Invisible,” similar to Innocence‘s five-week exclusive with iTunes, was first given away free to 3 million global users within 24 hours of the Super Bowl. The song eventually sold 64,000 downloads in its first month of commercial availability, according to Nielsen SoundScan.