U2's newest album Songs of Innocence simply appeared in iTunes libraries throughout the world last month, and Apple says about 81 million people at least played or streamed the album.
Billboard reports that the album was delivered to 500 million users on September 9, with 26 million accounts downloading the album in its entirety. The 81 million people who "experienced" the album, Apple's senior VP of internet software and services Eddie Cue explained, were charted globally from plays and streams through iTunes, iTunes Radio and Beats Music.
"To help put this into perspective," he said, "prior to this, 14 million customers had purchased music from U2 since the opening of the iTunes Store in 2003."
With a deluxe version of Songs of Innocence to hit stores October 14 with 10 bonus tracks and acoustic takes on the songs, sources tell Billboard the album could sell another 70,000 copies based on pre-order numbers. According to the article, U2 and label Interscope made $100 million in free media exposure from the advertising campaign.
"Part of the DNA of this band has always been the desire to get our music to as many people as possible," Bono wrote on the band's website about the release. "In the next 24 hours, over a half a billion people are going to have Songs of Innocence ... should they choose to check it out. That is so exciting. People who haven't heard our music, or weren't remotely interested, might play us for the first time because we're in their library ... And for the people out there who have no interest in checking us out, look at it this way ... the blood, sweat and tears of some Irish guys are in your junk mail."
Songs of Innocence has caught some flack in the past month with Sharon Osbourne criticizing it via Twitter and Everclear parodying the release with Funny or Die. The album's follow-up, Songs of Experience, is almost complete.