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Column: off the record..., vol. 14-620

@U2, May 25, 2014
By: Aaron Govern


off the record, from @U2

I enjoy going to concerts -- you could almost call me a concert junkie. This year, I have already been to 15 concerts. The most recent was Prince, who played a short U.K. tour called Hit and Run Part II. I was fortunate to grab some tickets for the first show of the tour, at one of our largest indoor arenas, the LG Arena in Birmingham. Even more exciting, the entire tour was announced just 10 days before it began -- talk about quick and fast!

In my opinion, the spontaneous feel of the concert made Prince’s performance all the better -- no obvious set list to guide his fan base, lots of rare tracks played for the first time in many years, with plenty of B-sides unearthed and obscure funk covers. In this Internet age, concertgoers find it so easy to download set lists in advance, view the stage show on YouTube, obtain detailed information about the key tour statistics, etc. Driving home, I mentioned to my wife that the last time I felt the same way about a concert tour was when I saw U2 on the 360 tour in Barcelona in June 2009 -- mainly because it was the opening night of the world tour, when I had no preview available.

One other thing about Prince: He was pretty adamant about no photos or phones, and the audience respected that, making for a much better experience all around for artist and audience alike. Other acts should take note.

It has been a few months since Paul McGuinness stepped down as manager of U2, but he is back in the news again. The International Music Summit was held in Ibiza, Spain, from May 21-23, and McGuinness took part in a keynote interview on the second day with U.K. radio D.J. Pete Tong. Subjects they discussed included the rise of Google, and McGuinness branded the company the “greatest theft enabler on the Internet”. It’s a theme he has focused on several times in the last 10 years or so, and it’s certainly true that the music industry is changing at a breathtaking speed, with new players such as Spotify changing the focus from purchasing music directly to streaming instead, giving traditional record labels a much-needed boost as purchases of legal downloads and CDs decline. The music industry has been grappling for years with how to make money from music distributed on the Internet, and streaming services such as Spotify are seen as a possible model to generate revenues. News reports this month have suggested that Apple is eyeing a $3.2 billion buyout of headphone maker Beats Electronics -- mainly to capitalize on its recently launched streaming service, Beats Music. The next U2 album will almost certainly not sell in the volumes that the band is used to. The days of selling 10 million albums are long gone for U2 (and almost any act). The industry has changed so dramatically since No Line On The Horizon was released in early 2009.

There’s not much new U2 news, so I find myself reading music biographies, with two recent publications from leading journalists worth a mention. The first is There Goes Gravity: A Life In Rock And Roll by Lisa Robinson, who has interviewed just about anyone who is anyone in the music business. Her book features a section on U2, among other rock luminaries, and is well worth a read. The second book is Rock Stars Stole My Life!: A Big Bad Love Affair With Music by Mark Ellen, a U.K. journalist and former editor of music magazines Q and Mojo. It features a very funny piece by Ellen when he was traveling on the road with U2. I promise that you will enjoy it!

Finally, a bit of U2 humor. God help Dallas Schoo if this actually happens to the Edge.

Have a super week!

© @U2/Govern, 2014

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