For the second time in a row, a new U2 album has been leaked before its official release date.
No Line on the Horizon, slated for a March 3 release, showed up online earlier this week when Universal Australia, the Australian division of U2’s label, Universal Music Group, accidentally began selling high-quality digital downloads of the album for two hours before the tracks were pulled. Nice work, UMG.
It seems like this really was a mistake, since U2 seems to have opted for the more common “MySpace streaming before release date” album-promotion strategy employed by The Killers, Kanye West, Guns ‘n’ Roses and Lily Allen, among others. (The tracks will be on MySpace later today.)
And if it was a screw-up, it was a symbolically colossal one: a major label and ardent opponent of illegal downloading unwittingly unleases an album onto filesharing services all over the Web. Oh, the irony.
But U2, and Universal, might have bigger problems than this leak. Even though it’s become common for artists to stream albums before their official release, these early debuts don’t seem to have hurt sales.
But U2’s new album and its first single, “Get On Your Boots,” doesn’t seem to have generated much interest. The track was floating around iTunes most-downloaded songs list for a few days after its well-received debut, but it hasn’t been in the top 100 for weeks. (It is currently #54 on Amazon’s list of the most-downloaded MP3s.) The album, meanwhile, is number 86 on iTunes albums list—it was hovering in the top 10 for the first few days after it became available for pre-order and was heavily promoted on iTunes.
As Coldplay proved this summer, iTunes advertising=iTunes sales. Even U2 knows that, since it did the same thing, and even created a U2 iPod, before the release of their last album, How To Dismantle An Atomic Bomb. And, as far as we can remember, the album and its lead single Vertigo were doing pretty well on the nascent iTunes before the disc was releasd at the end of 2004. Why didn’t the band didn’t engage in such heavy iTunes promotion this time around? Not sure, but it may have had something to do with rumoured friction between UMG and Apple.
Maybe U2 will be able to drum up some more interest in the album with a MySpace leak and five-night gig on David Letterman the week after next (also the same week the album comes out; what are the odds?). For now, though, it doesn’t seem like there are many sales on the horizon.
To get you in on Bono and the boys’ latest, here’s “Get On Your Boots.” Use it to inform your album-buying decisions: