Howto em­brace an eco­nomic time­bomb

Can U2 adapt to the new rules of the mu­sic biz?

The Irish Times - Friday - The Ticket - - News -

All eyes will be on U2 in 2008 as the Ir­ish vet­er­ans re­turn to the fray with their 12th stu­dio album.

There have been whole­sale changes in the mu­sic in­dus­try land­scape since the band’s last album How To Dis­man­tle An Atomic Bomb was re­leased in 2004.

You can be sure that the band have fol­lowed with in­ter­est such re­cent de­vel­op­ments as Prince giv­ing away his most re­cent album for free with the Mail on Sun­day, Ra­dio­head ask­ing fans to set the price for In Rain­bows (with the band set­ting pre­mium ticket prices for their tour to make up for the short­fall) and the shrink­ing vol­ume of CD sales.

Over the years, U2 have de­vel­oped a rep­u­ta­tion for shrewd mu­sic busi­ness deal­ings. In 1985, for ex­am­ple, they took a stake in their then la­bel Is­land in re­turn for waiv­ing un­paid roy­al­ties. Four years later, that stake turned out to be worth $30 mil­lion when Is­land was taken over by Philips.

As man­ager Paul McGuin­ness ex­plained in a 2006 in­ter­view, af­ter their 30-year ca­reer, the band mem­bers “know as much about the busi­ness as most record ex­ec­u­tives and most con­cert pro­mot­ers and most record­ing en­gi­neers and even most T-shirt dis­trib­u­tors”.

It will be in­ter­est­ing to see how the band use such knowl­edge when it comes to re­leas­ing and pro­mot­ing their next album.

As U2 are still signed to one of Uni­ver­sal Mu­sic’s many off­shoots, it’s highly un­likely that they will be able to adopt the same approach as Ra­dio­head and give away the new album for free.

They prob­a­bly could, how­ever, copy Bruce Spring­steen, who gave away Ra­dio Nowhere as a free down­load with a num­ber of news­pa­pers, in­clud­ing this one, to plug the re­lease of his Magic album.

An­other tour is def­i­nitely on the cards as this is where U2 have al­ways man­aged to trouser large amounts of cash. The Ver­tigo tour to plug the last album was the sec­ond most lu­cra­tive tour of all time, rack­ing up to $389 mil­lion (¤270 mil­lion) in ticket re­ceipts plus other large sums in mer­chan­dise sales.

All the band have to do now is to make sure that their new album is ac­tu­ally worth lis­ten­ing to in the first place.

Bono screams, the world lis­tens

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