As part of the roll out of the iPhone 6 and the Apple Watch, Apple announced that it was adding U2’s ‘Songs of Innocence’ to every Apple iTunes library automatically as a ‘gift’. There was an immediate uproar from Appleland that became so raucous that eventually Apple created a page to tell people how to remove the album from their accounts (yes, there’s an app for that), culminating in Bono himself apologizing for the entire fiasco.
The main complaint of the Apple community was that, a) they didn’t want Apple deciding what takes up space on their iTunes account and, b) they hate U2. There was a lot of counterpoint from Apple / U2 loyalists that thought Apple had done a good thing. ‘If some gives you a gift, you say thank you.’ The response from the aggrieved was ‘If someone gives me something I don’t want, it’s not a gift.’
To be sure, the bundle fest that was the iPhone 6 launch was intended to be a slick cross marketing event. A ‘free’ gift, it was not. U2 were well compensated for the release rights of the album. In addition, everyone that isn’t an Apple customer will pay for it. Apple gave it away for marketing purposes. The question is why would Apple want to spend hundreds of millions of dollars to do this.
I believe what makes Bono (and, hence, U2) relevant is his continuous presence on the world stage as a humanitarian. At this point, nobody can seriously call U2 ground breaking. But Bono is omnipresent. You can find pictures of him with Nelson Mandela, Bill Clinton, Pope John Paul II, George W. Bush and other luminaries. He, for some reason that escapes me, is at the World Economic Summit. His efforts on behalf of Amnesty International and many causes in sub-Saharan African are legendary. He is a one-man force that is identified with human rights, liberty and environmentalism. Whether or not you like his music, he has, on the surface, attempted to be a force for good.
Then there’s Apple, whose products are produced, in part, at the Taiwanese company, Foxconn. Its expensive phones and gadgets are made by workers who toil in walled campuses for ten or more hours a day. Off work, hours are spent in crowded common areas or sleeping in a room with eight to ten other workers. Workers are rarely allowed to leave the plant for fear that they will not return. They endure this for $0.35 per hour, and they have to pay for their food and lodging. Suicides occur with regularity.
Apple has faced criticism for this practice. Their justification is that their expensive phones would cost even more if they made them in labor fair countries. Any sentient being would see the lie in this as their net income is $37BN in 2013. This 18% bottom line is produced not by the pirate raider, Goldman Sachs, but by the cool, trendy, we want everyone to be happy and love each other, Apple, Inc. Being socially responsible would cost them money.
Instead of doing what, based on their image, would be the right thing by paying fair wages, they engage in a piece of truly cynical marketing. Pay one of the world’s most famous humanitarians millions of dollars so you can give his work away on the hope that resulting aroma will cover the stink of your own business practices. There are no innocents in this situation, just Apple and Bono in the perfect embrace of hypocrisy.