THAT TIME I RESEARCHED THAT THING U2 DID WITH APPLE | 26th March, MMXVI

One of the useful things that I did in the past few years was completing a Master’s programme at the London School of Economics and Political Science (LSE). In order for me to obtain the degree certificate and therefore complete the curriculum I had to undertake an extensive and comprehensive research project that would broadly fall within the field I studied, what others, especially in the UK, usually call a dissertation. I decided to explore the public and media cataclysm that exploded after legendary Irish rock group U2 and the biggest brand in the world Apple decided to partner on an exclusive promotional deal for the band’s latest album “Songs of Innocence” in September 2014, realising it for free for over half a billion iTunes customers. I did this not because it was – and unfortunately in many ways still is – highly fashionable to criticise and be against U2, but rather for the exact opposite reason: I was excited about the distribution strategy and couldn’t really understand all the rage and resistance that was being put forward by not only the public but also by social and mainstream media outlets themselves.

I thus found myself analysing a whole lot of content and material deriving from traditional media outlets (newspapers) and social media (tweets) trying to make some sense of both the mainstream narrative as well as the opinions deriving from bottom-up reactions of social media users around the globe, all from a predominantly journalistic perspective. Well, long story short, after having handed in my dissertation last August 2015 – entitled “Songs of Guilt”: When Generosity is to Blame – A Content Analysis of the Press and Social Media Reactions to U2’s “Songs of Innocence” Giveaway on iTunes – I was lucky enough to be considered for an external publication within a working paper series called Media@LSE MSc Dissertation Series hosted by LSE’s Department of Media & Communications. I wouldn’t onboard on such a shameless act of self-promotion other than for the fact that the research project is now publicly available and downloadable here and maybe of interest of you, esteemed reader. As one does with pretty much anything new that’s being presented and/or launched nowadays (especially cultural and artistic artefacts), I’m attaching the dissertation’s abstract here below as a preview/snippet/trailer/extract in case you’d still wondering whether this whole explorative journey could be something of your interest (though come on, you could still download the freaking file and just skip to the 2-page results section, isn’t this what we all do anyway? Also, some of the figures are cool.):

“The present research project aimed at delivering an update on networked journalism practices within hybrid media systems’ theorisations. It approached such a theoretical framework, completed by the notions of framing and (inter-media) agenda setting, through the consideration of the case study of tech giant Apple and Irish rock group U2’s promotional deal directed at the giveaway of the band’s latest album “Songs of Innocence” on iTunes, which was notably accompanied by widespread disapproval and a questioning of its means. The study set out to appraise and analyse the reactions of the mainstream and social media to the promotional stunt as hybridised phenomena. A quantitative content analysis of 145 English-speaking press articles (further subdivided into general-interest and specialised music press clusters), as well as of over 1200 tweets, published during the course of the operation, allowed the researcher to assess the narratives of the two dimensions in relation to their interactive development.

The research concluded that the mainstream and social media shared various patterns of content development, such as the predominance of negative tone over positive tone and the reliance on framings relating to both the top-down imposition of “Songs of Innocence” and issues of privacy. The study also found that the two media dimensions employed significant cross-referencing, with social media relying relatively more on the mainstream than vice versa. However, key events in light of the overall public discourse concerning the operation were found originating on social media first and being later taken up by the mainstream. Thus, in general the research could further contribute to the conceptual acceptance of a fluid hybrid media system in which traditional and online media ought not be seen so much as replacing each other, but rather as complementing themselves in a fast-paced supportive symbiosis.”

I obviously had to reformat the whole document in order to comply to the series’ standards and I guess that made for a very long article in its final version, but I’d say that in general it’s pretty enjoyable and worth a read if you’re even remotely into music. It was definitely an interesting experience for me as I got to gain really surprising and fascinating insights into people’s perception of privacy and intimacy in the modern social media age as well as key thinkings surrounding the music industry after its digital disruption that happened over fifteen years ago. If any of these buzz words sound remotely exciting for you, I’d say you wouldn’t waste your time reading the research. If not, no problem, there are a lot of exciting TV series out there to spend your time with. If you’re currently searching for inspiration, give Daredevil, Better Call Saul, Mr Robot or House of Cards a try. All highly addictive. Otherwise, simply stop by Kanye West‘s Twitter timeline and that should keep you busy for a good while too. Either way, I guarantee for quality to be found.

I’d like to thank you sincerely for taking the time to read this and I hope to feel your interest again next time.

AV

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