U2 released its thirteenth album Songs of Innocence for free on Apple’s iTunes service today.
U2’s decision echoes the free digital download strategy used previously by Nine Inch Nails (The Slip) and Radiohead (In Rainbows). My 2008 conference paper and presentation slides found that each band adopted the strategy during a period of heightened conflict with their labels, and leveraged their audiences to negotiate better contracts.
U2’s espoused reason for the strategy is to raise global awareness of specific charities. Other reasons may emerge . . . (One of them being a surge in back catalogue sales.)