Analysis

U2 frontman Bono’s A to Z of 2014: including iTunes and Spotify


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Still recovering from a serious cycling accident, U2 frontman Bono published a lengthy “A to Z of 2014” blog post on the band’s website yesterday, to mark the new year. It includes his latest views on the infamous iTunes giveaway, as well as the streaming music market.

I is for iTunes in the post: “Our album was to be like a bottle of milk dropped at the door of anyone interested in music and iTunes. As I understand it, the journey from the front door to the fridge and into what to some people felt was their bowl of cereal has something to do with a switch called “automatic download” — if you turn it on, you sign up for being pushed stuff,” wrote Bono.

“That’s about it…no flagrant abuse of human rights, but very annoying to people who a) like being annoyed, and/or b) felt it was like someone robbing their phone in the pub and taking a couple of photos before leaving it back on the table… some kind of breach of privacy which was really not intended. I empathise with the b)’s, but for the a)’s I’ve started referring them to the philosopher Jimmy Kimmel.”

He embedded Kimmel’s YouTube skit claiming Bono should have said “Fuck you,” to critics to illustrate the latter point, but returned to his previous defence of Apple as a music company.

“That Apple remains a music company is the best news for any one who wakes up with a melody in their head or wanting to hear one. Apple is unique in big tech in trying to get artists paid. That they would agree to pay Universal for SONGS of INNOCENCE, and then gift it to all the people who still believe music is worth paying for, both makes sense and is a beautiful thing.”

The “V is for Vision over Visibility” entry expands on Bono’s views of the digital music market, though:

“We all now understand the Internet is giving us access to information that is mostly flattening an uneven playing field. This is all good except when some technologists think that creative content is only valuable in its ability to show off their wares – hard or soft,” he wrote.

“Some say musicians should be pleased with new ways to promote live concerts but I remind people that Cole Porter didn’t play live shows. Songwriters are getting a poor deal right now. The reason I respect for-fee services like Spotify is that they are slowly turning people who are used to getting their music for-FREE, into paying ten dollars a month for a subscription model.

“These payments don’t add up to replacement for income from physical or digital sales at the moment – but I think they can if everyone sits down – record companies, artists and digital services – to figure out a fairer way of doing business.”

Plus a fun titbit on how Universal Music UK is trying to open up streaming data to artists more accessibly: “A Universal artist will be able to find out weekly, maybe even daily, on their cell phones, how many plays they’ve had and where in the world they’ve had them; also they can be direct-credited the payment.”

Just for fun, here’s B is for Blogosphere too, comparing online discussion with toilet graffiti: “Where has all the graffiti gone? The bile and spleen, the grotesque drawing, the sexual meandering, the threats of violence to minorities? Where has it gone? It’s on the blessed Internet. Scroll down… you know you’re looking at your phone in the loo anyway…”

Stuart Dredge

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