Blog Post

Why is U2’s latest album on your iPhone? How to remove Apple’s publicity stunt

Apple may have succeeded at breaking two records at once with the free release of U2’s latest album via iTunes yesterday: The album, titled Songs of Innocence, instantly became “the largest album release of all time,” as Apple CEO Tim Cook announced on stage during the company’s iPhone 6 event. But now, it looks like it’s also on track to become one of the worst music publicity stunts of all time.

To turn Songs of Innocence into a record release, [company]Apple[/company] decided to add it to every iTunes user’s music library without asking. For many iPhone users, this meant that the album also automatically downloaded onto their device — and that left many people confused, if not upset.

To get a sense of how badly the distribution scheme was received, one has to look no further than Twitter, where more than 24 hours later, complaints are still pouring in.

Searching for “U2 phone” on Twitter not only gets you countless swear-word-laden tweets, with quite a few coming from younger iPhone users who seem to have no idea who U2 is, but also complaints about actual issues like storage space.

That brings up a good point: How do you actually get rid of the album? Turns out that’s not as easy as it should be.

Users can always erase individual songs from their device, which in itself is a less-than-obvious process. To delete, swipe left on the song and press delete.

If a song has already downloaded (as shown by not having the cloud symbol), swipe left on the song title to show the delete button. If you click delete, you'll see it goes back to the cloud.
If a song has already downloaded (as shown by not having the cloud symbol), swipe left on the song title to show the delete button. If you click delete, you’ll see it goes back to the cloud.

Once they’re deleted, they’ll go back into the cloud, but still remain in your album list. If you detest seeing U2 even show up on your artist list, you can hide the band by hiding all of your music from the cloud.

If you haven't downloaded the songs, it should look like the left panel. To hide them from your phone, go to Settings then Music and turn off the "Show All Music".
If you haven’t downloaded the songs, it should look like the left panel. To hide them from your phone, go to Settings then Music and turn off the “Show All Music”.

However, even if you delete those songs, they may be automatically re-downloaded if automatic downloads are turned on for a user’s iTunes account. Here’s how to disable that option on your computer or see below from your phone. 

To prevent your songs from being re-downloaded if they're in the cloud, go to settings and iTunes & App Store. Turn off automatic downloads and show all music to prevent them from downloading again.
To prevent your songs from being re-downloaded if they’re in the cloud, go to settings and iTunes & App Store. Turn off automatic downloads and show all music to prevent them from downloading again.

After that, users have to actually fire up their computer to launch iTunes, and hide the item from their library. There is no way to permanently delete the album.

Given these complications, it may have been a better idea for Apple to forego the world record, and just make the album available for free to anyone who wants it.

Apple event ticker

116 Responses to “Why is U2’s latest album on your iPhone? How to remove Apple’s publicity stunt”

  1. Dom Pisstof

    I accidentally downloaded two of the songs, now I can’t swipe left to delete them! I’ve already hid them from my iTunes and prevented automatic downloads. How do I get these songs off my iPhone?? This is probably the straw that will make me switch to Samsung… way to go Apple, way to go..

  2. This is BS. The left swiping is not deleting them so IDK what to do. Don’t want to listen to U2 mixed in with my songs. Pretty pissed that Apple just takes it upon themselves to add music to my device without my knowledge. Its this kind of crap that will definitely make me switch devices. Now I’ve spent a half hour trying to get this crap off of my iphone and still not off. Screw you apple. Jobs wouldn’t have allowed this kind of violation.

  3. I was driving when I noticed the new music was phone..I’ve curated my playlists over the years. I got confused, agitated and distracted when I noticed this new music .. How can they be so disgustingly invasive.

  4. John Willkie

    I don’t use Android nor Apple devices. But, remember the meme/claim of Apple fanbois that Apple is better than Google/Android because Google wants to present you ads while Apple would never do that?

    Well, folks, your FORCED download of the U2 album (regardless of the merits of the content) is you PAYING data rates for ADVERTISING. Wanted or unwanted advertising.

  5. Every one of you who are complaining about the U2 album clearly do not know how to operate your iphones. The album would have never gotten on your phone unless you allow “automatic downloads from icloud”. A setting in your settings that can easily be turned off by you. It is there to allow easy download of purchases from itunes to your device. YOU control those purchases behave. Apple gave you an album as a gift. If you like it fine, if you don’t fine but don’t act like the company did something wrong by giving you something for free. If you can’t figure out how to manage your iphone so stuff like this doesn’t randomly occur to you that is not Apple’s fault. That’s USER ERROR plain and simple.

    • Absolutely wrong. The album downloaded onto my phone and my wife’s phone even though the “automatic downloads” are turned off on both of the phones and on our iTunes on the computer. Your (somewhat condescending) comment does make a good point about having control of your devices, but does not apply in this case.

    • They did do something wrong, I can operate my phone very well, I play my music from my cloud to save space on my phone. However since this was placed into my cloud without my permission it still plays as I have my cloud on shuffle soooooo that means yes some how you are still forced to listen to album you do not want or listen too

  6. I have nothing against U2, but if i wanted the music i would put it on my phone i don’t want it and followed all instructions , still cant get it off my IPHONE, kind of annoying.

      • Veronika G

        Josh: YOU don’t know what YOU are talking about. I called Verizon and spoke to a tech for the apple Iphone and it was forcibly put in my phone!!! Do your research before making yourself out to be an idiot with this stupid comment!.

  7. “However, even if you delete those songs, they may be automatically re-downloaded if automatic downloads are turned on for a user’s iTunes account”
    hahaahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahah
    You would have to be insane to allow automatic downloads to your device by ANY company. As sure as night follows day, you will find that your device is compromised at some point, either by stupid adware, or unwanted updates, or unwanted albums !

  8. Nomdeplume

    #firstworldproblems
    Seriously. It’s on the cloud, not on your phone. If someone had no storage space to even take a pic, then obviously he needs to update his storage settings in general. People manage to complain about free albums…amazing.

    • ASH: Secular Spider

      Apple owns the operating system you’re licensing, and you agreed to this when you accepted the licensing agreement.

      Also, fyi, you don’t own the music you buy from the iTunes store. You’re licensing that, too.

      • This may be acceptable within the confines of the user agreement with Apple, but that does nothing to prevent it from becoming bad PR for the company. Telling people that Apple is allowed to do stuff like this because of fine print isn’t going to make all of them say “Oh, well that’s OK then! I suddenly am very much in favor of this! Please do more of this, Apple!” It’s still bad press for Apple and is going to turn off a lot of users. In fact, speaking for myself personally, this is enough to make me consider switching back to Android.

    • Dillbrow

      Wow really Beyoncé or lords? you need some better taste in music buddy. Don’t get me wrong I’m upset about the whole U2 thing but man crappy music you listen to

  9. mike hawk

    one of the songs wont remove what do i do!!?????…i understand the band is all for charity and stuff,but what give apple the right to force me to listen to it by automaticly installing it on my phone

    • Peter Fry-Ingpan

      It’s not forcing you to listen to it. It’s not even really installing it. It’s essentially installing a link to the songs stored on the cloud.

      That said, it’s annoying.

      • It actually is trying to force us to listen. Since it’s in the cloud, even though I didn’t download it on to my phone, it automatically plays when I turn shuffle on. So, if I don’t want to listen to this horrible crap while washing dishes, I have to dry my hands, change the song, and hope their crap doesn’t play again.

      • Guest He Said

        The principle — forcing installation is no less reprehensible than negative-option billing (where a business charges you for something you didn’t ask for unless you ask to not receive the item – a standard cable practice).

      • I have to say it is exceptionally painful to deal with my phone now. Plugging into the car guilds terrible sounds from the freaking album that was automatically downloaded onto my phone. Emphasis on MY!!! Tomorrow I will be hard resetting my phone wiping out all data and preventing that crap from downloading onto my phone. When I hit play I want to play Pandora not this crap. A big F you to Apple for this!