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"I would call myself an aggressive pacifist." — Bono

Column: off the record..., vol. 7-261


Let me start with a Happy Father's Day wish to all the dads reading this week. It's an especially cool Father's Day for one of our staffers: Scott Calhoun and his wife just gave birth to their fourth child, Vivian, last weekend. And you wouldn't believe the delivery story if I told you, but rest assured that it happened outside the maternity ward and involved Scott catching the baby. For real!

U2.com have a new article about the recent songwriting sessions in Fez. Sadly, it's available to subscribers only. :-( Out of respect for that, we'll wait a couple weeks to post the full article. In the meantime, here are a couple highlights in bullet-point format:

  • The sessions in Morocco lasted about two weeks, making a total of four weeks that U2 had worked with Eno and Lanois on writing new material. They'd previously done some writing and recording in France "a couple months ago." Larry says they'll probably continue this arrangement later in the year.
  • "One track they've been working up sounds like a soul song with distinctly Arabic rhythms. Another is an epic story-telling piece which seems to run for seven or eight minutes." (Ed. note: sounds like "Mercy," doesn't it?)
  • Local musicians -- percussionists and fiddlers -- have joined in some sessions.
  • Some of the music is "being informed by the distinct Arabic music scale."

U2.com promises more details from the Fez sessions will be forthcoming. (Thx to Brian M. for the tip.)

One of the issues we talked about in the reader survey was about hosting/development costs. If you missed the survey, we explained at the end that @U2 has had free hosting and development since the beginning because I was an employee at the company where the site is hosted. Emphasis there is on "was." I have a new job now, and there's a chance we'll need to start paying for hosting and development upgrades. These could be substantial costs.

So we asked in the survey how you'd feel about three fundraising ideas: 1) putting advertising on the site, 2) advertising on the podcast, or 3) by requesting voluntary donations via Paypal 1-2 times per year. I was surprised to see option #3 was the clear preference; you'd rather be asked to make a small contribution than to deal with advertising on the site and/or podcast. Here are some of the questions and comments you left us about the possible need to raise money in the future:

"If there was anyway to indicate how much Paypal donations per person might be, that would make it easier to say OK to that."

If we get to the point where we need to ask for donations, we might include a suggested amount, but we'd never require a certain amount. It would be completely voluntary; you could donate or not donate, and if you do, the amount is your choice.

I promise our suggested amount would be small. Based on our current traffic levels, if only 10% of the people who visit @U2 in a day were to donate $5, I believe we'd have plenty of money to pay what I think we'd be charged for hosting and development/programming. Hard to say for sure since the issue hasn't been resolved yet with my old employer, but they're good people and I know they wouldn't gouge us.

"Perhaps you could charge a small subscription fee for some of your content and then if fans want access to that, they could pay."

I'm not a fan of that idea for two reasons: 1) It separates our readers into "haves" and "have nots," and 2) it sounds like additional time and effort would be required to implement and manage it.

"To raise money, open an @u2 store where you sell merchandise."

We actually still have a few T-shirts remaining from our 10th anniversary store. That was too time-consuming to deal with, and when you only earn a couple extra bucks per t-shirt, you have to sell a ton of shirts to raise any meaningful funds. And if you're selling that many shirts, you spend a lot of time packing and mailing, etc. (What about Cafepress? I've never been impressed by the quality. Sorry.)

So, anyway, we don't need to do a fundraiser right now, though we may need to in the future. If that happens, we'll follow your wishes and do the voluntary donation idea. You may not know, but we've actually had a Paypal button on our home page for several years now. No one uses it. :-) I think we've received about 25 donations over 5-6 years. You can learn how we use that money. And you're welcome to help out now if you're so inclined.

USA Today has a list of the Top 25 Music Milestones of the past 25 years, which includes Live Aid high on the list and Zoo TV down near the bottom. It's pretty interesting to look through their choices. I would probably have included something about consolidation in the concert industry, with Clear Channel (now LiveNation) buying up all kinds of venues, Ticketmaster taking over the ticketing side of things, etc.

If you recall me talking about a project I'm working on, and re-reading all the U2 books on my shelf, it'll all be explained on Monday.

And finally...I promise not to reveal which @U2 staffer discovered this video that takes toilet humor to a new level. (Totally safe for work/kids.)

See ya next week.

@U2, 2007.