Eddy Cue, Apple's senior VP of internet software and services, tells Billboard that U2's Songs of Innocence has racked up a staggering 26 million complete downloads since its Sept. 9 release as a free download exclusively to Apple's 500 million global iTunes customers. In total, Cue adds, over 81 million Apple customers experienced songs from Innocence, a global figure that includes plays and streams through iTunes, iTunes Radio and Beats Music. "To help put this into perspective," he says, "prior to this, 14 million customers had purchased music from U2 since the opening of the iTunes Store in 2003."
U2 issued a statement on news saying, "Apple is a tech company fighting to get musicians paid. The idea that they wanted to make a gift to the very people that actually purchase music is both beautiful and poetic, and for that we are very grateful."
A physical deluxe edition of Songs of Innocence is set to hit all other retailers Oct. 14, featuring 10 additional bonus tracks (unavailable on iTunes) including six acoustic versions of Innocence songs and four all-new cuts. Sources tell billboard that based on pre-orders the physical deluxe edition could move an additional 70,000 copies.
While the free album does appear to be have been successful. It wasn't without controversy. Som Apple users became upset that Apple inserted the album into their purchase history, leading Apple to post a tool that could be used to remove the album.