Bono says he's sorry for putting a free U2 album on everyone's iPhone: "The part of me that will always be punk rock thought this was exactly what the Clash would do"

Bono headshot
(Image credit: Roy Rochlin/Getty Images)

U2 frontman Bono has reflected on the band uploading their Songs Of Innocence album to all iPhone users in 2014 - a move that was deemed extremely controversial at the time and that provoked a debate about the role of big tech in music. 

Reflecting in his upcoming memoir Surrender: 40 Songs, One Story by Bono, in an exclusive extract published by The Guardian, Bono writes: "If just getting our music to people who like our music was the idea, that was a good idea. But if the idea was getting our music to people who might not have had a remote interest in our music, maybe there might be some pushback. But what was the worst that could happen? It would be like junk mail. Wouldn’t it? Like taking our bottle of milk and leaving it on the doorstep of every house in the neighbourhood. 

"Not. Quite. True.

"On 9 September 2014, we didn’t just put our bottle of milk at the door but in every fridge in every house in town. In some cases we poured it on to the good people’s cornflakes. And some people like to pour their own milk. And others are lactose intolerant."

iPhone users would wake up that morning to find the album automatically downloaded to their devices, and while they weren't required to listen to the record, for many fans and non-fans alike, it felt like an invasion of privacy.

"I take full responsibility," Bono adds, later noting: "quite quickly we realised we’d bumped into a serious discussion about the access of big tech to our lives. The part of me that will always be punk rock thought this was exactly what the Clash would do. Subversive. But subversive is hard to claim when you’re working with a company that’s about to be the biggest on Earth."

Perhaps unsurprisingly given the backlash to the Songs Of Innocence release scheme, the roll-out for 2017 follow-up, Songs Of Experience, was a far more traditional affair.

Surrender: 40 Songs, One Story by Bono is out November 1 via Cornerstone.

Merlin Alderslade
Executive Editor, Louder

Merlin moved into his role as Executive Editor of Louder in early 2022, following over ten years working at Metal Hammer. While there, he served as Online Editor and Deputy Editor, before being promoted to Editor in 2016. Before joining Metal Hammer, Merlin worked as Associate Editor at Terrorizer Magazine and has previously written for the likes of Classic Rock, Rock Sound, eFestivals and others. Across his career he has interviewed legends including Ozzy Osbourne, Lemmy, Metallica, Iron Maiden (including getting a trip on Ed Force One courtesy of Bruce Dickinson), Guns N' Roses, KISS, Slipknot, System Of A Down and Meat Loaf. He has also presented and produced the Metal Hammer Podcast, presented the Metal Hammer Radio Show and is probably responsible for 90% of all nu metal-related content making it onto the site.