U2 surprise Apple event with new album released for free on iTunes

Tue Sep 9, 2014 7:43pm EDT
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LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - Veteran Irish rockers U2 pulled off a surprise at Apple Inc's event to launch new products on Tuesday, making its latest album available for free on Apple's iTunes online store.

The Grammy Award-winning band performed at the Cupertino, California event, at which Apple unveiled two new iPhones, a smart watch and a mobile payments system.

U2 released its new 11-track "Songs of Innocence" live on stage with Apple Chief Executive Officer Tim Cook. The album immediately appeared in iTunes users' music libraries.

Cook called it the largest album release in history because there are more than 500 million iTunes users. But the giveaway is unlikely to count toward official music sales figures at Nielsen SoundScan because it was distributed for free.

The band will release the 11-track "Songs of Innocence" and a deluxe version featuring four new tracks and acoustic performances to the rest of the world on October 14, its label Interscope Records, said on Tuesday.

In July 2013, rapper Jay Z released his album "Magna Carta Holy Grail" for free to a million users of Samsung smartphones via a special app. However, the 1 million copies were not eligible for Nielsen or Billboard's weekly charts of best-selling albums.

(Fixes 'Carta' from 'Carter' in final paragraph)

(Reporting by Piya Sinha-Roy; Editing by Patricia Reaney and Jonathan Oatis)

Apple CEO Tim Cook speaks with U2 during an Apple event announcing the iPhone 6 and the Apple Watch at the Flint Center in Cupertino, California, September 9, 2014. REUTERS/Stephen Lam