herald

Sunday 19 August 2018

The times they are a-changin' Paul, at least U2 recognise it

U2
U2

Unlike most of the half a billion people who received U2's new album for free in their iTunes account last week, I actually know who Paul Brady is.

An old school folksinger, 67-year-old Paul has disappeared off the radar somewhat in recent years and, having forged a respectable career, is unlikely to veer far from his current, low-key path of occasional albums, modestly-sized concerts and critical acclaim.

So how surprising it was to see him hit the headlines this week courtesy of some rather blunt words and the free release of U2's Songs of Innocence.

rage

"Music costs money to make," wrote Brady. "It has value. It should not be given away free. Shame on you, U2."

And it gets worse: "This is a further and highly visible nail in the coffin of a sustainable music business from a band that continually waffles on about fairness and human values."

While Brady's rage is understandable, it is ill-directed. What U2 have achieved is almost unimaginable - they've stayed at the top of their industry for over 30 years.

They have done so not by standing still, but by reacting to changing tastes, both musical and technological.

As he strums his guitar and warbles wistfully about a "sustainable music business", Brady seems to miss the fact that the world has changed.

One need look no further than the moronic tweets which have greeted the U2 album being available for free on iTunes, with attention-seekers complaining about "invasion of privacy", to see the challenges facing musicians today.

In releasing their album for free to the public, U2 seem to have accepted one inescapable, modern truth. Very few people pay for music any more, and the last remaining way for bands to make money is to perform live.

And the best way to sell concert tickets is for people to hear your music.

nonsense

Brady seems to imply that U2 owe the music business something and that they shouldn't do what is best for them. Which, of course, is nonsense.

What is "sustainable" for an artist like Paul is completely different to what is required to sustain global superstars like U2.

The band will probably tour next year, making far more money than they could have hoped to make from record sales.

And while Bono et al are filling 80,000-seater arenas throughout the world once again, and the audience sing along to tracks off their latest album, Paul Brady may well have opportunity to look out onto the 800 or so people who've come to see him in the Olympia, and ponder the following.

I wish I'd thought of that...

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