U2 frontman and songwriter Bono revealed in an interview with Time this week that he and his band are collaborating with Apple on “a new digital music format.” The new format is part of a secretive project aimed at both motivating fans to purchase music again and helping artists receive more appropriate compensation for their music in the Internet radio age.
Bono revealed the strategy to Time in a comprehensive interview focused on the unconventional release and ensuing aftermath of U2’s latest album Songs of Innocence, following a performance of the debut single, “The Miracle (of Joey Ramone):” to close down Apple’s live event in which the company unveiled the iPhone 6, iPhone 6 Plus, and the new Apple Watch. Tim Cook joined Bono on stage after the performance to present the gift to iTunes users, for which Apple reportedly paid $100 million.
Time’s interview with Bono seems to have yielded little in regard to what the new format actually is, though the rock star did expand on the motives and goals behind the (so far) ambiguous undertaking. Bono told the magazine that he hopes the new digital music format will prove so irresistible to fans that they will begin purchasing music again, both whole albums and individual tracks. He went on to explain that the new format wouldn’t just be a boon for bands like U2, which are able to earn significant profits from touring and life performances. He claims the format would be particularly helpful to songwriters who focus more on the pen and paper, and less on the road and the stage.
“Songwriters aren’t touring people,” Bono told Time. “Cole Porter wouldn’t have sold T-shirts. Cole Porter wasn’t coming to a stadium near you.”
It’s impossible to tell whether Bono is referring to an actual digital music format, such as an MP3 or WAV file, or a new sale and distribution format for the music itself. The strategy could even be a multi-pronged effort combining both, or incorporating additional ideas. Some have even speculated that the new “format” could include some new form of DRM, or Digital Rights Management, which would prevent users from copying/sharing files with other users — something that falls on anxious ears in the online community.
Apple’s trademark secrecy could indicate that Bono’s interview with Time will be the first and last time we acquire any details pertaining to the project until it’s formally revealed and/or released to the public. As far as we know, the Cupertino-based company might already be admonishing the frontman for his openness with Time. Of course, the revelation could also be merely part of Apple’s overarching publicity plan for the project, disguised as a leak.
Only time will tell what Apple truly plans to do, but we’ll be on the look out for more details and will update this post if and when we find any.