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


Credit: Tom Krazit/Gigaom

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


Walter White

@john; utter rubbish. Are you seriously suggesting that anybody who doesn’t like U2 is against human rights? Grow up.


This is like waking up to find that someone has painted a life-size picture of Yanni on your front door.

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..


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.


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.


I tried to swipe left to delete an individual song as you suggested and it does not work.

Biz Carson

If the songs have been downloaded, then it should work. If it’s showing the cloud symbol next to it, that means it’s not actually downloaded on your phone so the swipe left won’t work. Try hiding them.

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.


Hey “Warren Ellis”, you wouldnt know good music if you were clocked in the head with it. Go back to your not much of a lady gaga crap music.


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


To use an overused phrase, this may be the epitome of a first world problem.


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.


You would have to explicitly put it on your phone. Most people are having trouble getting it to download… So you did it, not Apple.

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!.


It does raises security questions. I mean how much control do they have on our smartphones and our lives?


“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”
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 !


I listen to what i want to listen, not what other people want me to listen.


What next, accessing your phone to see your preferences to sell to marketing companies. I guess the “A” in NSA stands for Apple!!!


Flippin annoying! Can u imagine, I’m working out to the new Meghan Trainor song, and this crap starts playing??? Scary, ’bout fell off the elliptical!


apple forcing me to download it. CRAZY !!!!! not going to buy apple anymore !!!!

Chuck Dotson

I may be the only person with the opposite problem. I want the record and can’t figure out how to get it to show up in on my phone, iPad, or computer!


I was afraid someone hacked into my iTunes account and was buying crap with it!


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.

Hank Quinlan

Here’s a free bag of poop…oh, you don’t want it? Tough. Pay us to take the bag back.


lol, you got that right – only a massive ego such as Bono would agree to such a thing.

J v

The ” music” is terrible. Plus, it is on my phone. Automatically downloaded 3 tracks and can’t delete them. They play while on shuffle.

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.


i followed the instructions and i still have 3 songs that wont come out :( whats up with that?


so they can just give me free songs now? tf i want fucking beyonce or lorde or tft or something else who tf is u2


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

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.


“There is no way to permanently delete the album.”

Apple… the technology company… live-stream fail… PR-stunt fail…

Congratulations Tim Cook, your company has earned it’s place in my Shame File.

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!


You are against Human Rights. U2 is the only band that cares about poverty. Every other band in the world just want to get rich.


Just because someone doesn’t like U2 doesn’t mean they’re against human rights. Personally, I’ve never heard of U2, but I detest the fact that Apple put their album on my ipod without giving me the option to refuse. Therefore, I want the songs off my ipod unless, after I’ve gotten a chance to listen, I want them on.

But don’t get all uppity just because this man is kindly showing us how to get rid of the music that some people don’t want.


You’ve never heard of U2? Not a single time has U2 come into your field of vision?


If U2 cared about poverty they would pay taxes on their huge income in their home country of Ireland instead of sending it offshore and then pretending to be humanitarians


‘U2 is the only band that cares about poverty’ – there it is. Officially the stupidest thing I’ve ever heard. You’re almost as big a douche as bono. Actually, I take that back, no-one comes close to the high douche.


omg are you freaking kidding me?

u2? the band who pays no tax? the band who rips off their own charities?

u2 are absolute assholes.


That’s the dumbest thing I’ve ever heard. I can hate whatever bands I want and still staunchly believe in all manner of human rights.

shireen liane

that’s the most ridiculous thing I’ve ever heard – bunch of messianic tax dodgers.


U2 sucks, I don’t care if God himself listens to them you dumb tool. You’re against humanity if you think we should be forced to download them, U2 is satan.


Bono hated money so much that he allowed himself to become a half-billionaire by accident.

Charlotte Blackwood

I’m not a U2 fan, but it’s not them I’m mad at, it’s Apple. U2 aren’t the ones who put songs I didn’t want on my phone taking up space I need for other things.

And as far as my feelings about U2’s music, that has nothing to do with how I feel about human rights and poverty. And I’m sure U2 appreciates the fact that they make money as much as the next band, they don’t live on rice and potatoes. Plenty of bands in this world make zip but keep playing anyway. U2 does great things. But I don’t have to like or want their music to appreciate that.

John's Mom

john, this is your mother, I am extremely upset that you would say this, even I know that U2 suck and Bono is the supreme douche… smh kids today


You really didn’t just say every other band doesn’t care about poverty? He U2 really cared, he would donate all his money to poverty and live like normal people on 30-40,000 a year. No, U2 is not that caring!


You did not really just say that! Every other band does not care about poverty. If U2 cared or for hollywood in a whole, cared they would donate all their money to the poor and live on what normal people live on, 30-40,000 a year. NO, none of them care that much! Hypocrites! Own a Prius and fly private jets across the country! Hollynuts!

Veronika G

SCREW U2– NEVER LIKE THEM NOR THEIR CRAPPY MUSIC…. I’m all for caring about Poverty…. but poverty starts at home… WE Have Poverty Here in the US!!!


Yep, and because someone doesn’t agree with a presidential Candidates policys they are racist

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