By: Rae Avery
While the idea of giving away free music may seem generous at first glance, millions of iTunes users were all but enraged to find an unordered album sitting in their iTunes music library. September 9th Bono announced at a special Apple publicity event that U2’s newest album, “Songs of Innocence,” would be given to all iTunes users free of charge via iCloud. This also comes right on the heels of the unveiling of several new Apple products including the Apple Watch.
While iTunes was quick to point out to critics that they did not force the album onto devices, they merely added it free-of-charge to every iCloud, the fact of the matter is Apple had to know that plenty of users have their cloud set to regularly sync to their devices.
But if it's free, what's with all the whining? I thought we were a nation still eager for freebies in whatever form they come. Was it not a rogue shot from a T-Shirt cannon that brought down The Simpsons' beloved Maude Flanders? Surely I'm not the only one still stealing pens from my local bank (and maybe a stapler when Olivia has her back turned). We're Americans—we love freebies! Charities still occasionally try to cash in on the gimmick of sending out free coins or dollars in the hopes of receiving more in donations. They wouldn't do this if it didn't work, right?
According to Time's Business section, freebies still pack a powerful punch, but it has to be something physical for companies to get the intended psychological effect. In 2014, we're all used to getting free digital content with the click of a single torrent link.
When it comes to your personal audio collection, what iTunes did with the new U2 album feels less like a freebie, and more like they are pushing music onto users without their consent. “I know they [Apple] can do it, because, you know, they made the phone and they can do whatever they want,” Free went on to say in a podcast rant on the subject, “but it was so annoying to have content shoved into your ears.”
The whole situation is eerily reminiscent of the bloatware that comes pre-loaded on computers purchased from chain retailers like Best Buy. Bloatware, cheekily dubbed, “crapware” by many users, is extra software that comes with computers—not because the software is desirable, but because the retailer has made a corporate deal to let their sold machines essentially be advertising for their product and brand (and crappy application no one would buy normally). Gone are the days of solitaire free on every Windows machine—now you get some bizarre preloaded games you'll never play, and have to go to the Microsoft App Store to download your old favorite digital card game from 1995.
Trying to get “Songs of Innocence” off users’ phones in the last few weeks, proved woefully more difficult than it should have been as well. Even if they went through and deleted each song, one at a time, the album as a whole would still be marked as a legitimate purchase in their overall music library, influencing what music would be recommended to them in the future (not cool!). Immediately after the gift loaded in users' clouds, there was no option to remove the album, only to “hide” the album in iCloud. This is when a gift becomes a downright nuisance.