Still More on the U2 Promotion Effort

L. Bird pkeets at
Sat Nov 13 22:43:22 CST 2004

Aural Intercourse: U2: All that you can't avoid

By Mike Prevatt

There's always a concern as to whether veteran music acts can compete in the 
increasingly youth-oriented pop market. Adults are buying less and less 
music, and kids are buying mostly hip hop, mall pop and emo. Where does that 
leave, say, R.E.M.? Madonna? The Beastie Boys? Janet Jackson? All four of 
those artists released albums in the past 18 months, and all of them were 
considered commercial flops.

U2, turning 25 this year and arguably still the world's biggest rock act, is 
leaving nothing to chance. Though its 11th studio album, How to Dismantle an 
Atomic Bomb, won't be available until Nov. 23, the band's PR push started in 
September, and is currently going full speed ahead. If Bomb bombs, it won't 
be from a lack of effort--this looks to be one of the most strategized rock 
campaigns of the year.

First, the most visible--and somewhat controversial--bit of promotion has 
been the band's participation in an Apple iTunes/iPod commercial. The 
frequently played 30-second spot sees the band performing its new single 
"Vertigo" as the silhouettes commonly found in the existing iPod 
advertisements (a two-minute version can be found online at the iTunes Music 
Store). As a result, "Vertigo" has been the most downloaded song at iTunes 
for more than two weeks.

The spot has caused debate among online music fans, as U2 has never before 
lent its music or its members' likenesses to advertisements, with devotees 
scratching their heads and detractors crying "sellout." However, the band 
defended its decision by stating that it was not hawking the Apple products, 
but the song itself--identified at the end of the ad--sold on iTunes for 99 
cents. Furthermore, it accepted no money to appear in the ad.

U2 and Apple have been friendly for a while now, as the band was an early 
supporter of the iTunes Music Store. Just last week, the band and Apple 
announced a joint partnership that would produce $349 custom U2-themed iPods 
containing Bomb, as well as offer a $149 "digital boxed set" of all the 
band's albums plus several fan club rarities. Rumors are now circulating 
that Apple may lend its name to the band's 2005 tour, which would be the 
first time the band has ever accepted a corporate sponsorship (MTV has 
promoted the band's last three tours). Details on the trek are still 

Meanwhile, on radio "Vertigo" has been an instant hit. This is no 
surprise--U2 management and representation previewed the tracks to 
influential broadcast programmers in late summer, with the throwback 
"Vertigo" emphasized as the first radio cut. Various program directors then 
immediately reported their pleasure with the single to the press, 
essentially declaring it a smash before it ever hit the airwaves. Five weeks 
after its release, it's the No. 1 track on modern rock radio (note: none of 
the four singles from the band's quadruple-platinum All That You Can't Leave 
Behind reached that position), and it sits in the mainstream rock top five.

U2 could ascend the bestseller lists as well. Riverhead Books has released a 
312-page coffee-table tome called U2 Show that chronicles the group's 
history onstage. The book is significant, in that it's the first 
band-authorized book to document the one aspect of its career it is most 
famous for--its live performances. Helmed by photojournalist Diana 
Scrimgeour, who is scheduled to promote the book in Las Vegas Nov. 4-6, it's 
presented much like an all-access pass, featuring about 500 photos, 
countless design graphics and several interviews with members of the band's 
management and longtime touring team. And it's an exhaustive look at the 
range of rock show productions, from the band's first club tour to the 
multimillion-dollar "Zoo TV" stadium spectacle, ending with the 2001 
"Elevation" arena tour and Super Bowl halftime show.

As if all that wasn't enough to keep the band's name afloat, U2 was 
announced as one of the 15 nominees for the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame 
(inductees will be announced later this month); singer Bono received the 
Freedom Award from the National Civil Rights Museum in Memphis on Oct. 18, 
and will be one of three recipients of the TED Prize, to be handed out Feb. 
23-26 in Monterey, Calif.; and an Oregonian woman discovered a suitcase of 
notes and lyrics--intended for the band's second album, October--belonging 
to the vocalist in her rental house, some 23 years after it had been stolen 
from a Portland club. Is there such a thing as too much PR? Surely U2 isn't 

More information about the TheWho mailing list