In a conversation on the main stage at the Web Summit in Dublin today, U2 lead singer Bono provided some more tantalizing hints about how the band is collaborating with Apple.
“They let us into the labs,” Bono said.
To illustrate the kind of concepts U2 and Apple might be exploring, Bono told the story of being in a house in France with Steve Jobs a decade ago. Bono looked at a version of iTunes being displayed on a TV screen and asked Jobs if he liked design so much, then “why does that look like a spreadsheet?”
Bono said he had wondered why the album covers displayed on iTunes weren’t interactive or why they didn’t display archival photos, lyrics, or 3-D versions of band members: anything that would make for a more engaging visual experience with fans to complement the music.
Jobs replied that the operating system and the technology didn’t quite exist yet for such an experience.
“But it does now,” Bono said.
So earlier this year, U2 proposed the deal with Apple that led to its new album, “Songs of Innocence,” being released for free. While discussing the deal, Apple chief executive Tim Cook asked, “Is there more?” To which Bono says he replied, “Oh, yes.”
He said the band wanted to work with Apple’s designers and engineers to develop new music formats and new experiences that would create more engagement with fans and customers, while also inspiring them to pay for music and support artists. While Bono remains optimistic about the future of music, he’s concerned in that short term that musicians are losing their leverage and their ability to make a living.
“We wanted to work with the creative people at Apple,” Bono said. “Jony Ive is a guy I’d like to be in a band with. He’d be like a bigger Edge.”
Bono said he remained convinced that giving away the new album was the right thing to do, even knowing about the resulting backlash from some Apple users that prompted him to apologize.
“We got a lot people who weren’t interested in U2 to be mad at U2,” Bono joked. “I would call that an improvement in the relationship.”
Bono noted that 100 million people checked out at least a few of the songs. And he said 30 million people had listened to the whole album after three weeks.
“It took us 30 years to do that with ‘The Joshua Tree,'” Bono said.