After Apple surprised everybody with the gift of a free U2 album last year, people gnashed their teeth and called them names, they called for the band to go away, they scoured the Internet for a way to get the record out of their phones ... then went right back to listening to the band's music. According to a study from the Kantar Group, the graying Irish rockers accounted for 23 percent of all music listened to on iOS devices through January 2015. That stadium rock-sized share was more than twice what Taylor Swift (the second most popular artist) got, and more than the number of plays for Swift and Katy Perry (the third-most heard artist) combined.
“If these figures suggest that these songs still matter to people, then we’re knocked out,” U2 lead singer Bono said. “That’s all any songwriter wants.”
On its face, it’s not surprising to hear that U2’s music is so widely listened to on Apple devices -- the quartet has multiple decades’ worth of hits to entice listeners. What's surprising is that, according to Kantar's research, at least 95 percent of those listeners checked out at least one track from “Songs of Innocence,” an album whose arrival (or, at least, its method of delivery) was greeted with almost operatic levels of indignation.
Go home, U2, no one invited you to the party. #U2hacked
— SJ (@sxmmiejo) September 12, 2014
So it's fairly safe to say that the new U2 album is by far 'the most deleted record" of all-time.
— Damian Abraham (@leftfordamian) September 11, 2014
Critics, sensing an opportunity to tee off on a band nobody would feel obligated to defend, brandished their clubs. "That U2 would willingly play corporate house band at a watch announcement to achieve this rollout in 2014 surprises exactly nobody," Pitchfork snapped. Under the Radar called the album "a soulless and unwanted lump"; the Austin Chronicle called it "self-conscious gobbledygook."
But Kantar's findings indicate that on some level, Apple's $100 million experiment worked, and if nothing else it provides them with valuable insights they can use as they continue to work toward the launch of their own streaming music service.
"It's nice to know that five months on so many people have discovered 'Songs of Innocence,'” U2 guitarist The Edge said in a statement. “In the end we just wanted people to hear the album. We took a big risk, but today we can say that the experiment worked.”
The band will embark on a U.S. tour this summer. Tickets are on sale now.