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The Times MARCH 3, 2009 - by Adam Sherwin
NEW U2 ALBUM NO LINE ON THE HORIZON GIVEN LUKEWARM RECEPTION
It was billed as the album to save the music industry and launched amid a publicity blitz.
But record-buyers have given only a cautious welcome to the new release by U2.
Finally released on Monday after a marketing campaign that peaked with a rooftop gig at the BBC, No Line On The Horizon sold sixty-five thousand copies in the UK on its release day, the Official Charts Company said.
The figure suggests U2 have fallen behind Take That in the public's affections. The revived boy band sold a hundred-and-thirty-three thousand copies of their album, The Circus, on its day of release, last December.
Coldplay, U2's rival for the title of "world's biggest band", have surpassed their mentors. Their Viva La Vida Or Death And All His Friends CD shifted a hundred-and-twenty-five thousand copies on its opening day.
U2 need to sell three-hundred-thousand copies in the UK this week to match the performance of Coldplay and Take That. But they are likely to fall short.
A spokesman for HMV said: "U2 are doing really well for us and sales are in line with expectations. It's likely to shift between 150,000 and the best part of two-hundred-thousand copies by the end of the week, which is very respectable for this time of year."
The album is also expected to become one of the best-selling legitimate downloads ever, via iTunes. It is currently the iTunes Number 1 in eleven countries including Germany and Japan.
But the new album is being released into a recorded music market hit by the recession and decimated by downloading. The band's decision to allow fans to stream No Line On The Horizon on the free music website Spotify may have backfired.
Fans who did not like the album, widely praised for being more experimental that their previous efforts, may have decided not to rush into record stores.
Universal, U2's record company, is refusing to panic. The album, their twelfth studio release, is expected to sell steadily over an eighteen-month period. U2 are about to announce a stadium world tour, which promises to feature an innovative three-hundred-and-sixty degree stage set.
Concert promoters say demand to see U2 in concert is as strong as ever, confirming the shift away from CDs to live performance for the music world's biggest-earning names.
US sales are also being keenly watched by Universal. The Irish quartet are playing a five-night residency on The Late Show with David Letterman to maximise impact.
MPs criticised the BBC for handing over hours of free airtime to the band in a special "U2 equals BBC" day last Friday. The band are determined to maintain their status as the "world's biggest", not least because it gives singer Bono leverage in his discussions over Africa debt relief with world leaders.
The album was preceded by a single, Get On Your Boots, which failed to make the top ten. Radio stations, still a vital conduit for bands to reach casual record buyers, did not give a warm reception to the track.