Perhaps nervous that his star clients will one day find themselves starving and living on the streets of Dublin with no source of income other than crudely busked versions of “Numb” or whatever, U2 manager Paul McGuinness has long been a vocal opponent of illegal downloading. For the past three years, he’s been actively trying to convince ISPs to crack down on file-sharing networks, calling for a solution that involves a “graduated response,” or a series of warnings, basically, to the guiltiest parties. With news coming last week that the biggest U.S. service providers have reached an agreement with the music and film industries to enact a system of “copyright alerts,” he’s one step closer to realizing his dream that the members of U2 may one day be able to afford to buy shoes for their children. He shared some of his thoughts on the subject in a column for The Daily Telegraph last Friday.
He’s been adamant over the years that the “fight free with free” approach is doomed to fail, and he contends that of-the-moment sites like Spotify have “not much hope of long term success,” that such a system “cannot sustain the artist royalties, the copyright fees and the investment that makes the artist’s career possible in the first place.”
It’s a given that the manager of one of the most successful acts in the history of the music industry would have a slightly skewed (read: completely fucked) view of what it means for an artist to have a quote-unquote sustainable career. To his credit, he acknowledges as much in his column, but is still left with one nagging question:
In a world of 95 per cent piracy, where is the investment going to come from to fund the next generation of bands such as U2 and Coldplay?
And he certainly has a point. There is nothing happening in the music industry that would give any of us reason to believe a another rock band will enjoy success on the same level as Coldplay and U2, but what he fails to mention is that this is due at least in part to the fact that everyone is busy investing in an industry that will fund the next Black Eyed Peas. Or, to be ever so slightly less cynical, the next Drake. There’s an interesting debate to be had about why the system currently in place can support certain types of artists and not others, and there is certainly enough perfectly warranted doom and gloom to go around these days, but it’s also worth considering that McGuinness isn’t so much trying to avoid the demise of the music industry as a whole so much as the demise of a music industry that’s in line with his personal interests, financial and otherwise.