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Apple says 81 million iTunes users have ‘experienced’ the free U2 album so far

Remember that recent ruckus around Apple’s on-stage U2 flirt-fest that led to the Irish rockers’ latest album being offered to iTunes users for free? Of course you do.

Well, Eddy Cue, Apple’s senior VP of Internet software and services, wants you to know that, hey, lots of people have been downloading Songs of Innocence to their devices and lots of people have also “experienced” its tracks.

Cue told Billboard this week that not only has Songs of Innocence had 26 million complete downloads to date, but also 81 million Apple customers have so far “experienced” the album’s songs across iTunes, iTunes Radio and Beats Music. No, we’re not entirely sure what he means by “experienced” either, after all, many of those that went through the various steps to delete it will probably count that as an experience, too.

Related: Your free U2 album may have cost Apple $100 million

While 81 million is certainly a lot of experiences, it’s worth keeping in mind that Apple has around 500 million iTunes users on its books, meaning that either a huge number of customers simply aren’t interested in the album, or Apple hasn’t done enough to let people know about the free offer.

Still, Apple’s Cue, as you would expect, is upbeat about the album’s apparent reception, telling Billboard, “To help put this into perspective, prior to this, 14 million customers had purchased music from U2 since the opening of the iTunes Store in 2003.”

Heartwarming finger kiss

The announcement that the Irish band’s latest work would be offered at no cost to millions around the world was made last month during an awkward on-stage conversation between Apple boss Tim Cook and U2 frontman Bono, a conversation which culminated in a heartwarming finger kiss (heartwarming for the two people involved, at least) that sealed the deal and sent the songs whizzing along the Internet tubes.

However, the download, which landed on many handsets automatically (hang on, this makes the “26 million complete downloads” stat seem a little unclear now), caused something of a brouhaha in the days that followed, with a good many people less than happy with Tim Cook’s apparent assumption that everyone who uses iTunes must be a massive U2 fan.

Related: Let Bono be a lesson – celeb tech endorsements are better for laughs than sales

The growing backlash resulted in the Cupertino company posting a special webpage explaining to disgruntled iTunes users how to remove the offending songs from their music library.

Now that everyone’s had a chance to take back control of their tracks, the fuss has abated.

However, if the whole episode passed you by, and you rather like the idea of some free Bono on your morning commute, you’d better hurry. Apple’s Songs of Innocence giveaway runs till October 13.