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U2 Said to Play Role at Apple Event

For Apple's big announcement on Tuesday, expect some big news about the iPhone, and also about the company's latest product, the so-called iWatch.

And also expect something big from U2.

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Extending a decade-long connection with Apple, U2 will play a significant part in Apple's event, which will be held at a performing arts center in Cupertino, Calif., the company's home base, according to three people briefed on its plans. In addition to performing, the band will reveal an integration with Apple's products that is connected to its next album, which is expected to come out by the end of the year, according to these people, who spoke anonymously because the band's appearance — and its deal with Apple — is supposed to be a surprise.

U2
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U2

Spokesmen for Apple and the band declined to comment.

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U2's relationship with Apple goes back at least to 2004, when the company introduced a "Special Edition" iPod that came etched with signatures of the band's four members. Bono, its lead singer, was also close with Apple's former leader, Steven P. Jobs, and recently U2's associations with Apple have grown even closer. Jimmy Iovine, the record producer who was U2's longtime handler at its record label, the Universal Music Group, joined Apple as part of its $3 billion deal to acquire Beats Electronics, the headphone company and digital music service that Mr. Iovine founded with Dr. Dre.

Exactly what U2 will reveal on Tuesday, and how it is connected to Apple, is unclear, and people close to the band grew hushed and reluctant when pressed for specifics. Last week, when speculation about the band's involvement began to circulate through the music industry, the best guess was that its next album would come installed on the iPhone 6. People close to the band dismissed that idea, but said that U2's deal with Apple would involve the release of new music in an innovative way, and Apple's event would partly serve as a big, splashy stunt to generate publicity.

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The hunt for ever more surprising stunts has become a critical part of music marketing as sales of CD's and downloads decline. Last year Beyoncé set a high bar for other artists and record companies by releasing a full "video album" without advance warning, using her fame and popularity on social media to generate buzz for the release. Since then Weird Al Yankovic went to No. 1 with the help of a weeklong release of viral videos, and Taylor Swift made the mere announcement of her new album a minor news event by streaming a talk-show-style gathering with fans.

U2 is known to be eager to release its next album, and also anxious about its status in the current pop landscape. The group seemed poised to release a record earlier this year, when it unveiled a new single, "Invisible," during a Super Bowl commercial; selling that song on iTunes also raised more than $3 million for charity. But the album has been repeatedly delayed, and Bono has spoken publicly about the challenge of staying relevant as the band grows older.

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U2's last album, "No Line on the Horizon," released in 2009, has sold a disappointing 1.1 million copies in the United States, according to Nielsen SoundScan.

By Ben Sisario, The New York Times