Dear U2, Principle Management, Live Nation, U2.Com,
I send you this message today on behalf of the paid subscribers of U2.com. Recently, many of us have become dissatisfied with the way that the website is run. When U2 partnered with Live Nation in 2008, Bono said "With regards to U2.com, we feel we've got a great website, but we want to make it a lot better. We want a closer, more direct relationship between the band and its audience and Live Nation has pledged to help us with that." However, since the commencement of that partnership many fans have begun to feel ostracized from the band. Not only has the cost of subscription increased, but many paid members now feel as if they are not getting value for the money that they are spending.
Some features of U2.com are universally admired by the fans. The amount of content in the free siteâ€™s Discography and Lyrics sections are second-to-none when compared with official websites for many other artists, and the ongoing Willieâ€™s Diary is enjoyed by every paid member. But this is not enough to warrant the high cost of a subscription, even with the pre-sale access codes taken into account_74615. Fans have many concerns over the way that U2.com is being run, and the feeling of connection with the band that we all love and admire has changed from one of closeness and intimacy to one where we are simply being used for our money.
Primary among our concerns is the customer service of the website and the U2.com shop. Though we understand that it is near impossible to make every single customer happy, too many people are having negative experiences. One of the problems is that the coupon discount is unable to be applied to new items in the U2.com shop, such as the Artificial Horizon vinyl and the Rose Bowl DVD and Blu-Ray releases. Perhaps the best â€“ and certainly the most universal â€“ example of problems with customer service is the fiasco surrounding Artificial Horizon. Many people were upset that a release which was supposed to be exclusive to paying subscribers was made available for commercial release on vinyl through the U2.com shop. When the orders for the vinyl release closed further problems ensued. The demand for the product far exceeded expectations, and so orders were backlogged for weeks; sometimes for months. When the product finally did arrive, customers found that the vinyl discs were warped and unplayable. It was an unpleasant experience for all who were involved.
Unfortunately it is not the only example where customer service has been lacking. Orders from the U2.com shop have not been shipped out for weeks, or even cancelled altogether. When people call to see what has happened with their orders the responses that are given are both generic and uninformative. New members are unable to access the areas they paid to see, and sometimes the accounts are even reset. The number of complaints in Zootopia is proof enough of this. Further complaints have come from the manner in which the dates for upcoming concerts on the tour have been released. While we understand that it is an attempt to thwart scalpers, the result is that many fans are not informed of the presale in time to use their codes for the dates that they wish to see. It also leads to fans not using their codes in case a concert closer to home is announced at a later date; the prime example of this is Britain and Ireland last year, where many residents did not buy tickets for concerts in Spain, France, or Germany as they were certain that dates in the UK and Ireland would be announced. They were not, and many fans were left disappointed with unused presale access codes, something which could have been avoided entirely if they had been made aware that if they wished to see U2 play it would have to be on the continent. Another example is the closing concert on the forthcoming leg in North America. No less than four cities have held the title of being the last night of the leg, which has always been considered to be a special occasion by band and fan alike. As a result, many fans have bought tickets to concerts that are labeled as the last of the leg (sometimes on multiple occasions), only to find that it changes later. While it may help to stop some scalpers, the practice of announcing dates intermittently simply doesnâ€™t work; not when it is at the expense of the fans who helped U2 to become what it is today.
Another major concern is the content of the free gift each year, which for many people is an encouragement to join U2.com. In years where no tour is being held, it is often the reason why subscriptions are renewed. Prior to the partnership with Live Nation, the gifts were well received. U2.COMmunication was a unique memento of the Vertigo Tour, which allowed fans to have some tracks from both concert films on the tour, as well as video that was unavailable in any other way. Zoo2 and U2 Go Home allowed fans to have a legitimate CD copy of what are generally thought to be two of U2â€™s best video releases; the latter, considered the best free gift to date, also gave fans a free T-shirt, with a choice from several designs. And of course, further back in time there were the Hasta la Vista, Baby and Melon CDs. But since the joining with Live Nation, the quality of these gifts has been reduced drastically.
The primary problem is that, by joining U2.com, paying members are promised exclusive content; this includes Willieâ€™s Diary, some video, and interviews. Many fans associate the exclusive content with the material on the free gift as well; and since the partnership with Live Nation, this has not happened. No track on Medium, Rare & Remastered was unreleased; fans already had them from The Complete U2, the remastered albums, and various singles. Only three tracks on Artificial Horizon (four if you include the â€œUnknown Callerâ€ download after purchasing the vinyl) had not been heard before, and one track, â€œFast Carsâ€, had been included on the previous free gift. They were not universally enjoyed but they were tolerated as interesting collections, even if most of the content was already owned by the people receiving them.
U2 Duals has crossed the line of tolerance. With the previous releases, the consolation was that the material was at least somewhat exclusive by virtue of having been released as B-sides. Four of the songs on U2 Duals (â€œThe Wandererâ€, â€œWhen Love Comes to Townâ€, â€œMiss Sarajevoâ€, and â€œThe Saints Are Comingâ€) were released â€“ sometimes multiple times â€“ on widely available studio albums and compilations. Most of the others are available on iTunes for a dollar. As a result the fan outcry and outrage over this yearâ€™s gift has been considerable, spawning numerous lengthy discussions on Zootopia and various U2 fansites. Many longtime fans have reached the point where they no longer wish to renew their subscription to U2.com, and many are prepared to boycott the website entirely. The article on U2 Duals states that the release was curated by the band; but we have a hard time believing that they could sanction a release which has left so many people disillusioned. We are tired of feeling like we are being used for our money and getting nothing of value in return; the exclusive content being offered simply isnâ€™t enough for what we have to pay to get it.
The REM subscription costs $12 a year and members receive several exclusive tracks. The Coldplay.com subscription is free, and the newsletters they send out often contain contests where members can win items used by the band, and they frequently give away unreleased songs and remixes. Pearl Jamâ€™s fanclub, described by many U2 fans as one of the best that there is, gives streaming radio access, a magazine in PDF and hardcopy formats, free tracks for both download and vinyl, limited edition t-shirts, and a coupon that allows a user to download a free â€˜bootlegâ€™ Pearl Jam concert of their choice, in addition to all of the other perks that U2.com offers (full website access, some exclusive video and interviews, and pre-sale codes), for $40.
$50 is a lot of money for many people. They pay it year after year because they love the band and they hope to get the exclusive content that they are promised. The content that is currently offered is the bare minimum, and it is not enough to entice people to continue to renew their subscription. There is a lot that could be done to improve the U2.com experience and justify the expensive $50 price of membership.
Â· Prompt responses from customer service regarding delayed or cancelled orders;
Â· Allow the U2.com shop coupon to be used on newly available products;
Â· Return to announcing all of the concert dates on a leg at once. It may not thwart the scalpers but neither does the current practice, and keeping the fans happy is more important;
Â· Occasional posts or interviews by the band with members, as they used to do on the old Popmart website on MSN; or an option where users can submit questions that will then be answered by the band members;
Â· Competitions for signed albums or singles â€“ perhaps even exclusive packages to concerts that include airfare, hotel rooms, and backstage passes;
Â· Full-length videos instead of the abbreviated clips that are currently shown on the website;
Â· A free gift that is comprised only of material that is actually exclusive: songs that have never before been released, and never will be released in the future, whether they be live, remixes, demos, or discarded album tracks;
Â· More exclusive downloads; the holiday MP3 of â€œAmazing Graceâ€ / â€œWhere the Streets Have No Nameâ€ was a joy, and other downloads would be most welcome;
Â· Allow fans to download a â€˜bootlegâ€™ concert of their choice. We know that U2 record every single thing that they do, whether it be a concert, a soundcheck, or even a jam in Bonoâ€™s basement. Theyâ€™ve said for years that they would like to make that content available to fans, and it was one thing that was heavily teased during the initial link-up with iTunes. Pearl Jam has proven that it can be done, so surely U2 can do the same.
We know how much Bono, The Edge, Adam, and Larry care about their fans; Larry taking the time to personally sort out the ticket debacle at the beginning of the Vertigo Tour is proof of that. U2 became a success largely because of their live set, in which each member strived on a nightly basis to connect with the audience. It worked. The relationship between band and fan was one of the closest and most intimate connections that could be imagined. In recent years this connection has faded, and many people who have been fans for years, even decades, now feel ostracized and closed off from the band that they have followed and loved for so long. The people who are being hurt are not the casual fan; they are the ones who have supported U2 from the beginning, and who have been members of the fanclub since the days of Propaganda. In the end, as U2.com is their website, the responsibility for the faults lies with the members of the band, and if any changes are to be made the onus is on them to do so. We cannot believe that they will allow the treatment of their fans to continue in such a manner. Bono once thanked us all for supporting the band through the early years, and for â€œgiving us Â£500 each dayâ€. We will all be more than happy to continue doing so; weâ€™d just like to get some value from that money, so that we can say we continue to have a special and intimate relationship with U2.