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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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1 December 2009

Farewell to the casual music fan?: a short attention span essay on how & why culture is produced

A question to ponder: Is the support of 1,000 True Fans better than the here-today, gone-tomorrow affections of a quarter million or more Lesser Fans?

The idea that an artist could be supported by only 1,000 True Fans was first crystallized in March 2008 in a sort of manifesto by Kevin Kelly, a NorCali futurist type whose greatest claim to fame is co-founding Wired Magazine in the early 1990s, a place where he still holds the title Chief Maverick. (This preceded Sarah Palin by many years. He is, to put it mildly, on the liberal end of the ideological spectrum.) If the portrait below is any reflection of his character, he’s a rather optimistic sort.
Kelly was not making a literal argument with 1,000 True Fans. His manifesto was loaded with caveats. He did not think that nurturing a core fanbase vs. attracting more casual fans was an either/or position — rather he emphasized that “processes you develop to feed your True Fans will also nurture Lesser Fans.”  In addition to contributing proportionally more income to an artist’s bottom line, True Fans would work hard to spread word of mouth about their favorite artists’ work. Kelly also admitted that you might need more or less True Fan support depending on the medium you worked in: a video maker might need 5,000 fans while a painter might need 500. (A more technologically driven creator simply required a higher level of resources to produce.) Kelly later followed-up his original post with several follow-ups that leavened his argument by sharing the perspective of an artist who had actually utilized the True Fan model in his career. These follow-up posts were less-than-starry-eyed about the real world practicalities of appealing mainly to True Fans.

Earlier this month Jeremy Schlosberg — creator of music proto-blog called Fingertips Music — posted a kind of counter manifesto titled “Farewell to the casual music fan.” Schlosberg’s fear is that Kelly’s 1,000 True Fans model will become a literal reality. His core contention is that nurturing True Fans does not help to build a larger fanbase, but rather that it curtails an artist’s ambitions in such a way that large, communal art experiences may cease to exist.

Overall I found Schlosberg’s essay to be rather rambling & dire, but there was some very real wisdom in it. I’ve excerpted his core argument below. Read more »

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28 September 2009

Addendum: Mary Margaret O’Hara > Mike Bloomberg, U2, BlackBerries

Credit: Nigel Scott via Luminato

I don’t want my permanent record to reflect that my favorite things are BlackBerries, Mike Bloomberg & U2. So, to clarify some confusions that have arisen in the real world since posting last week about Bono’s Bloomberg shout out I need to make three points.
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25 September 2009

Blackberry Loves U2; U2 Loves Mayor Mike Bloomberg

Last night I saw U2’s 360° Tour. This was definitely the WTF moment of the night. Via TheAwl:

And I say that as a supporter of Mike Bloomberg (albeit one suspicious of his third term shenanigans).

I was also struck by these billboards which seemed to take corporate sponsorship to a level at once more bland, straightforward & effective than any I could recall.
And I say this as a fan of my Blackberry. Maybe this is the best way for corporations to sponsor popular culture — in a manner that mimics the bland, straightforward, effective demeanor to which all internal corporate cultures aspire.

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Posted by Alec Hanley Bemis  

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