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Some of You Wanted the U2 Album, After All: Apple's iTunes Giveaway Leads to Two Million Downloads

At least as important: Now Apple is selling a lot of old U2 albums.

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Peter Kafka covers media and technology, and their intersection, at Vox. Many of his stories can be found in his Kafka on Media newsletter, and he also hosts the Recode Media podcast.

Some of you do not want the U2 album Apple is giving away. But lots of you were willing to download it. Or, at a minimum, your iPhones and MacBooks did.

iTunes users have downloaded more than 2 million copies of “Songs of Innocence” since Tuesday, according to people familiar with the album’s performance. The album is available exclusively on iTunes until the middle of October.

Since the scale of the giveaway is unprecedented — Apple says more than 500 million people will have access to the album — it’s hard to put those download numbers in a meaningful perspective. It’s additionally complicated since some users’ iOS or Mac machines were set up to automatically downloaded the album.

But it’s reasonable to assume that a bigger number of people have sampled some of the album by streaming it from iTunes or iTunes Radio, where Apple is giving the new songs a big push.

One sign that Apple, U2 and the Universal Music Group, the band’s label, will all take as a positive is that the band’s back catalog seems to be selling very nicely on iTunes.

The music industry always expects new releases to spur the sales of old albums, but in this case iTunes buyers seem particularly receptive: Right now there are 17 old U2 albums on iTunes top 100 chart; a remastered version of “The Joshua Tree,” the band’s 1987 release, is at the No. 12 spot.

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