"Songs of Innocence”, or the Importance of Data Governance

September 28 2014

Author: Chad Cosper

Earlier this month, Apple created quite a stir by “gifting” a new album from the band U2 by forcing it into everyone’s iTunes library. Haven’t heard about this? Check your iTunes library. You are the proud owner of a new U2 album called “Songs of Innocence,” whether you wanted it or not. Disgruntled Apple fans took to Twitter to express everything from confusion – “Who is U2?” – to invasion of privacy allegations. My favorite tweet came from singer-songwriter Carl Newman: “I was amused by the fact that the U2 album is in all of your iTunes, but now I see it's in MY iTunes. Not funny.”

Why did this (very expensive) marketing ploy backfire so famously for Apple? (I would include U2, but they got a LOT of money and, apparently, there WERE previously a few people who had not heard of them but know who they are now, so win-win for them.) What Apple failed to take into account is that people cherish their “stuff.” Many who use iTunes as an MP3 library will spend hours meticulously organizing the files it stores: creating playlists, removing duplicates and adding missing artwork. Even those who are not this obsessive about their music libraries – or who use another platform to manage that library – understand that no one wants something forced into their library without at least opting in. Now websites providing instructions on how to remove the U2 album, which can’t simply be deleted as any other file in your iTunes library can be, are going viral on the Internet. Even panhandlers are getting in on the fun. (Apple has reluctantly released a “tool” allowing you to remove the album.)


There is a lesson in all of this for product managers, merchandisers, and anyone who manages product catalog information. Are you aware when a “U2 album” is forced into your catalog? Do you know how to remove it if it is unwanted?

Similar to the obsessive music fan who carefully grooms and manages his music library (OK, me), those responsible for supplying accurate, up-to-date and correct product information to websites, retailers or print catalogs (not to mention customers and distributors) take great care to ensure that the catalog they are working with IS accurate, up-to-date and correct.

In previous posts, I have discussed the concept of “who owns your data” (in the iTunes case, it appears Apple thinks it does) and Stuart Murdoch and Andy Hayler have written about the importance of data governance. Without true data governance in your enterprise, you may not know when someone introduces a “U2 album” into your catalog – and more importantly, you may not know how to deal with it when it happens.

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