THE POP CULTURE
Just when you thought the music industry was deader than that guy Aaron Hernandez shot, it goes and gets itself mouth-to-mouth resuscitated by Tim Cook. For those of you who don’t know who Tim Cook is, he’s Steve Jobs’ replacement at Apple, which means he’s stuck in the shadow of one of the most innovative minds in modern history (played by Ashton Kutcher in the movie. Thanks, Hollywood). So can you really blame Cook for taking a chance on a highly original, albeit radically invasive marketing strategy?
Of course you can. You’re the internet. Spew away…
Just to be clear, these people are engaging in some hardcore outrage porn simply because a company – Apple – gave them a free U2 album without their consent.
Now I’ll be the first to admit that U2 isn’t exactly the most modern band Apple could have chosen, but they’re not Hootie and the Blowfish either. I mean, who doesn’t at least mildly enjoy a U2 song? Sure, Bono can be a little preachy— okay a lot preachy— okay he’s kind of a dick, but most of his songs are catchy and upbeat, which is more than I can say for basically every other band in existence.
So why all the hate? Is it because people don’t like U2? Is it because we resent having our iTunes playlists tampered with (even if the tampering is done by the very company that gave us the playlist in the first place)? Or could it be that all this invasive technology reminds us a bit too much of The Terminator and The Matrix and 1984? (For those of you who don’t read, 1984 is a book by George Orwell. It’s actually one of the best books ever written—ah Christ, never mind).
The answer is, it’s none of those things. Those are all the superficial arguments people make in 140 characters or less. To find out the real source of the problem, we have to dig a little deeper…
THE POP PSYCHOLOGY
Here’s something I bet you already know: Lots of people are control freaks. There’s even a term in psychology called Control Theory, because shrinks need to have terminology for everything, right? Basically, Control Theory says that people need to have a sense of control and order in their lives, and if that sense of control is violated, the person will respond negatively. Sort of like how your roommate gets pissed when you take a dump in her bathroom. It’s not the fact that you used all her toilet paper or didn’t flush properly that bothers her – even if those are the surface arguments she makes to you while you’re trying to watch football – the real reason she’s angry is because you invaded her private space without her consent. In other words, you violated her sense of control (and you stank up the place).
If only little Timmy Cook had understood Control Theory prior to his “biggest album release ever in history” (douche), he just might have saved himself a massive PR headache. All Apple had to do was give its customers THE OPTION to download the U2 album. Imagine that. Imagine if everyone woke up one day to find a little message on their iTunes that said ‘click here if you’d like to download the latest U2 album free of charge. Just a little gift from your friends at Apple. Happy Ramadan!’
Okay that last line is unnecessary. But the point is, had Apple used this delivery method, its customers wouldn’t have felt so violated on such a deeply personal level. But instead Apple went ahead and downloaded the album onto everyone’s iTunes without their permission. And to a lot of folks, that’s the hi-tech equivalent of Freddy Kruger ass-raping their grandmother with the lights on.
In other words, it’s disturbing.
Half a billion people got the U2 album. I’m willing to bet most of their reactions were somewhere along the lines of: “Oh look, a U2 album. Okay. Whatever.” But a very vocal minority went into full-on I’ve just been touched in the naughty place mode. It’s temping to dismiss such people as a bunch of hypersensitive d-wads (which of course, they are), but if we do that we risk losing sight of an important principle – one that states that if you violate the average person’s sense of control, regardless of your intentions, that person is going to resent you for it.
You might want to remember that the next time you borrow your friend’s car without asking, or cheat on your girlfriend, or take a dump in your female roommate’s bathroom while she’s out having Sunday brunch with her friends (who are all very attractive by the way, and now think of you as a total creep). You might even think you’re doing someone a favor – like, say, gifting them a free U2 album – but if you don’t find some way to safeguard the fragile sense of control that most people desperately cling to in this world, they might just end up posting shit like this about you on Twitter: