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Apple, U2 reportedly working on secret new digital music format

U2's new collaboration with Apple appears to run deeper than the recent exclusive release of the band's new Songs of Innocence album on iTunes, as the Irish rockers are said to be working alongside the iPhone maker to create a new digital music format.

Though details are nowhere to be found, U2 frontman Bono believes that the new format will spur a resurgence of buying music, rather than streaming or illegally downloading tracks. He told Time that recent arguments for streaming and looking the other way on piracy —  that they spur sales of tickets for live concert tours —  don't take into account the needs of less well-known artists.

"Songwriters aren't touring people," Bono said in an interview. "Cole Porter wouldn't have sold T-shirts. Cole Porter wasn't coming to a stadium near you."

Late Apple co-founder Steve Jobs was apparently keen to the idea of a new high-definition digital music format, as Canadian rock legend Neil Young revealed in 2012 that the two were working together on such a project. Young said the new format would have offered fans uncompromised studio quality sound in the form of digital music downloads, but Young apparently decided to go in his own separate direction, releasing the Pono music player and accompanying download service earlier this year.

U2 has long collaborated with Apple on consumer-facing products like the U2-edition iPod and Product (Red) accessories, but the group was reportedly rebuffed for more in-depth partnerships under late Apple CEO Steve Jobs. Bono indicated as much in 2009 when the group signed a deal with Canadian smartphone makers BlackBerry.

"I'm very excited about this," he said at the time. "Research In Motion is going to give us what Apple wouldn't — access to their labs and their people so we can do something really spectacular."

Apple's tune seems to have changed under new CEO Tim Cook, who has led the company in a much more open direction. The recent $3 billion acquisition of headphone maker Beats and Apple's new enterprise tie-up with former blood rival IBM are prime examples of this change of course, which also includes more transparency on issues like privacy.