Paul McGuinness and the Piracy Affair

Paul McGuinness and the Piracy Affair

By  Nikki Vanasse

Blackstone, MA

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Paul McGuinnessAs Feedback gave way to The Hype, Paul McGuinness was in the right place at the right time; his “baby band” is born.  Never really fancied himself a band manager, but he gave it a whirl.  It was proven to be a match made in heaven; U2 had their lofty goals early on and Paul was a no-nonsense business man in training.  It was only natural that the two forces would come together.  From the beginning, he made all the right moves, including suggesting they all split the songwriting credits and ownership of their music.  His rationale?  If everyone is on an even pay scale, you have a better shot at harmony.  You can’t say Paul McGuinness doesn’t have smarts.

I’ve always admired what Paul McGuinness brought to U2’s table.  He’s got the loyalty and passion of Peter Grant without all the trouble.  He’s also a smart businessman, and you won’t find many who will dispute that.  It’s rare these days, for a band to have a manager so involved in it all, they are all on the same page.  So much so that from the beginning, the four lads agreed that Paul was really “the fifth Beatle”.

I have to admit though, that it is troubling for me to swallow the recent positions that have been taken by Mr. McGuinness.  I’m just surprised that a manager of his caliber isn’t a step ahead on this.  I’m talking first about his position on file sharing, and how ISPs and even government should be involved in creating legislation that will prevent the stealing of music.  

For ISPs to cut off any customer lifting a track for free?  It’s going to be hard, since the internet is not regulated.  And is that what we really want?  Regulation of the internet?  But it’s the only “free forum” we really have, isn’t it?  We like to keep it that way, thank you very much.  It’s not so much that I feel it isn’t right to steal music, but I also think that in an age of multiple releases and box sets and live recordings, it’s a wee bit expensive for my budget.  So where’s the happy medium?  And more importantly, how are the artists who are struggling for recognition and their own following going to really make any money at what they do?  It seems that the lesser-known artists depend on the live show.  Many give there music away and get people to the shows.  Maybe it’s that simple.

It feels strange to me, McGuinness’ rant (I call it a rant only because the MIDEM ‘08 speech went on forever) about the current state of the music industry, blaming everyone for the troubles it’s been experiencing.  These guys have been blessed with some serious coin.  Sure, they had a bomb with the Pop Mart tour, and they’ve been known to lose money and struggle meeting their lofty goals as far as touring goes, but the coin allowed them to REALLY stretch themselves and try driving down some new avenues.  It was their choice and they could afford take the risk.  U2 is not in any financial crisis.

The fact is, the game has changed, and the way we find and acquire music has certainly changed.  It’s a wonderful journey of discovery.  It would seem to me that U2 has enough clout to really shine here and figure out a new business model.  They are in the ultimate position to really lead the charge and make an even BIGGER impression.

Bono/Paul Secondly, this corporate sponsor business.  When I saw the show this past September, I fell in love all over again.  And then Bono ended the night with the list of sponsors he had to thank.  I don’t have a problem with giving thanks for some help, but I miss “thanks for giving us a great life”.  While I did hear that, the nod to Live Nation and Blackberry sounded louder.  He reminded me of a NASCAR driver being interviewed after winning the race.  He sounded uncomfortable with it.  I often wonder if any other fans noticed that.

The industry isn’t in balance, it’s too much business.  When I think of balance I think of Bill Graham.  That guy was great at the business and a BIG FAN of the music.  There’s not enough art represented anymore.  The key is to find out how to push your product out to the people and get somehow compensated for it.  What’s the answer?  We don’t know yet, although it would make sense to make the shows more accessible, more scaled down, and have more live shows on a lower scale, less expensive and draw your crowds.  At this junction, it seems silly to think that file sharing will be stopped.

The times they are a changing.  It’s about what moves the very core of our being.  It’s time that the industry redefines itself because to fight the tides of change on this level, in order to keep a status quo, is futile.  You’ve got to evolve.  And that’s something U2 has proven they can do.

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