Culture, Startups and Business

U2’s business practices3 minute read

For many, many years we have admired U2’s business practices. This band has succeeded in not only writing and recording multi-million selling albums and lucrative world tours, but their ability to create corporate structures which allow them stable and quality income streams which can even out the rollercoaster ride which is typical in the music industry.

Today, we read a very interesting Bloomberg analysis of U2’s business operations.

It’s a really good read, but the point is, it outlines that the reality of U2/Bono’s private personae is far different to the pro-charity public face. It’s well and good for him to be asking Peter Costello to give more of Australia’s tax money to charity, but Bono himself minimises paying taxes in Ireland. It’s well and good for Bono to be talking about giving money to the poor, but Bono himself doesn’t have any significant record of donations. Funnily enough, in terms of promoting the welfare of the underprivileged, U2 never paid a cent to the 400 or so extras which spent a gruelling 12 hours shooting the new U2 film clip at the Corner Hotel in Richmond during their recent Vertigo Tour. The best Bono could do is, once filming had finished, yell: “You deserve a couple of beers” and shouted the bar. As Andrew Bolt wrote: “Want to save the world? Yes, yes! Want to pay for it? No, no!

This is the same U2 that sued the PRS in the UK in 1994 in an effort to gain a greater share of publishing royalties and the right to negotiate their own performance licences – getting 80% of the fee from a gig and leaving the remaining 20% to support acts (rather than the 50/50 split which preceded it. That they brought legal action against the PRS to remove themselves from a collectivist organisation is the ultimate in business freedom; their stance should be admired by free thinking people around the world. But how this contrasts with the left’s obsession and heritage in collectivist thought is humerous, to say the least.

U2’s tactics are totally justified in that they are able to do it – they look after their own interests, ensure their talent and work is rewarded sufficiently and well done to them for doing so. They have the power, cache and talent to demand such mechanisms and they are rewarded for it.

But for Bono to claim that others aren’t doing enough for the poor or that countries like Australia and the US should give more taxpayer money to charity reeks of the highest hypocrisy. Again, they should be admired and congraulated for their global capitalism – it has created jobs, wealth and has brought joy to the lives of literally millions. But it is equally as wrong for them to use their position of power to then espouse a philosophy at diametric odds with their own personal actions.

It’s not to say their capitalist behaviour is in general at odds with kindness and charity. Not all all. Personal contributions and donations are a complementary factor of personal freedom and self-interest. If I make money, I should have the right to decide where it goes to and how much should go. It is, however, the notion that a central, collectivist organisation such as a Government (or for that matter a copyright collection agency) should decide and distribute a donation on my behalf which is highly disturbing. It is that element of Bono’s stance which is illogical and downright rude.

Published by Constantine Frantzeskos

I help global businesses delight their future digital customers with user-centred digital strategies, innovations and ideas.