“About 100 million people checked us out, one or two or three tracks, but about 30 million people liked the whole album. That took us 30 years with The Joshua Tree. So we did in three weeks with Songs of Innocence what took us 30 years with The Joshua Tree.”That's Bono talking about U2's iTunes giveaway. He can't really believe that, can he? That it's possible to deduce from a load of clicks that 100 million people "checked us out" or that 30 million people "liked the whole album".
It reminds me of that ad where the Encyclopaedia factory goes back into mass production because a baby somewhere is stabbing at an iPad.
This is an attention economy. Being exposed to something means nothing. Hearing something means nothing. Now even "owning" something doesn't tell you a whole lot.
The only currency that counts is people's active engagement, as measured, in the case of music, in repeat plays.
If you look at The Joshua Tree comparison another way, in that case the enthusiasm grew and spread, like one of Malcolm Gladwell's benign infections. This campaign seems to have gone in the other direction. This time they started by giving people the infection. Now those people seem to be saying "I had the U2 album but I'm better now." Call it the un-Tipping Point.