There has been a lot of criticism in regards to how U2 released their last album Songs of Innocence. Bono addressed all the attacks in a Web Summit tech conference held in Dublin on Nov. 6. Turns out, Bono is proud of U2’s iTunes Giveaway.
“It’s one of the proudest things for us ever. We always wanted our music to be heard, and the idea that we could have worked for years and years [on] what we think are the most personal songs that we have ever written — and you have to become very raw to write like that — only then for them maybe not to be heard was terrifying. So we were just thrilled that we got a chance to introduce ourselves to people who weren’t fans of listening to rock music, or people that listen to Bhangra in India, or whatever, all around the world.
(Have you read our interview on the Red Hot Chili Peppers’ drummer Chad Smith Yet?)
“Two figures arrived out of that. 100 million people checked us out and listened to two or three tracks. And 30 million people actually listened to the whole album. So we did in three weeks with Songs of Innocence what took us 30 years with The Joshua Tree.”
He was asked if he still considered the promotion a success in hindsight.
We got a lot of people who were uninterested in U2 to be mad with U2. And I would call that an improvement in the relationship. And we were paid. No one values music more than me or the members of U2. To us, music is a sacrament. It’s a sacred thing. I think artists should be paid way more than they are, but the greatest way to serve your songs is to get them heard. I’m already paid too much. I’m a spoiled rotten, overpaid, over-nourished rock star. One of the reasons I haven’t been vocal about music artists [getting fair payment] is that I know I’m the wrong spokesperson for this. But I have to tell you, if I were starting a band now, aged 17 or 18, I would be very excited
Bono went on to say what he thought the real problem with music today, and who the real enemy threatening music was.
The real enemy is not between digital downloads and streaming. The real enemy, the real fight, is between opacity and transparency. The music business has historically involved itself in quite considerable deceit, but if we can change that bit and people can actually see how many times they are being played, where they have been played, get direct access to the information about the people that are listening to them, get paid by direct debit, then I think even those micro-payments will add up to something.
People pick on Spotify — Spotify give away 70 percent of their revenues to rights-holders. It’s just that people don’t know where the money is because the record companies aren’t being transparent.
Bono calls for “more fair models of distribution.” saying, “I think when that happens I think the music business will be a rising tide that hits all boats.”
Bono even gives a warning to current artists “not to underestimate our value” in the new music economy.
Musicians, historically, were troubadours. They traveled from town to town, they sang and played for their supper for the lord of the manor, and if he liked them he would let them perhaps eat from his table. I don’t like that.
I prefer it when musicians are their own brands, and I prefer it when we are in charge of our own destiny. I think one of the things that makes me nervous about the present moment is that we are slightly slipping back and musicians are losing that firepower that they had. We don’t have to play for the lord of the manor. The lord of the manor can come and see us and pay like everybody else.
It is clear that there are some traumas as we move from physical to digital and 20th century to the 21st century, and the people who are paying the highest price in this are songwriters rather than performers. [But] I still think forming a band is so exciting. I still think there are incredible things to play with (using SoundCloud as his primary example) it’s like a playground for artists.”
Anything that gets your songs out there I think is a good. The monetary bit of this has yet to be figured out, but I think we’re in the early stages of the Internet. It’s like 20 years after mankind has discovered fire. It’s an experimental period, so let’s experiment. Let’s see what works.
Bono also is still working with Apple, but did not reveal much about the future.
Two months later and we are still talking about how U2 released their album Songs of Innocence. It is nice to see Bono say something with a strong defense, and not avoid the matter anymore. It sounds like he makes some good points. Do you agree with him, or do you still think he “devalued” music?