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8 December 2009

U2 manager Paul McGuinness: for & against

(Photo via Fotki)

Up this past weekend at Financial Times went this excellent sit down with U2’s manager Paul McGuinness. His views & his evident self-satisfaction are likely to be polarizing. Here’s some sample Tweets which prove my point — one from the resolutely independent Pampelmoose aka Dave Allen, the bass player for Gang of Four & owner of various small music businesses, the other from Bob Lefsetz, an LA based music industry figure known mostly for his email newsletter & his criticism of the old line music businesses. (Only a true believer could criticize it as he does.)


I think journalism is best viewed with an agnostic eye, as a collection of facts. In this case, facts that are particularly well presented. Here’s a sampling:

    McGuinness met U2 at a Dublin gig in 1978 – they were supporting a band his sister managed. “They were doing quite badly what they now do well,” he says. “Edge was playing notes rather than chords – this was punk and it was almost frowned upon to be playing individual melodies. Bono was very keen to make eye contact, and physical contact sometimes, with the audience. He was very hungry for making them look at him. He was then and is now an exhibitionist, as all great performers ought to be. It was just quite exceptional.”

    McGuinness, who was managing a now forgotten folk rock band named Spud, signed them up in the pub next door, over pints the band members were too young to be drinking, and laid down some business rules. “I recommended very strongly that they split everything because I’d read about other bands where there were officers and men – the Rolling Stones being a classic example, and the Beatles – where the songwriting members of the group earned significantly more than the others.”

    From their first deal, all four were credited as writers. “It has stood them in very good stead because it backs up the democracy of a decision if everyone’s making the same amount of money,” McGuinness says.

    Unusually, McGuinness negotiated an equal share for himself. Do you still get 20 per cent, I ask? Apparently not. “That was, in fact, reviewed later,” he says. “I had to build the management company, and they had to build the production organisation that makes the records and does the tours. If our overheads were going to be intertwined, that would be to ignore the reality. There should always be a division between client and manager.”

Posted by Alec Hanley Bemis  

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