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Old 02-21-2002, 01:57 PM   #1
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U2: Corporate Sellout's?

The following excerpt was taken from the latest Forbes magazine. The article is about music companies and retail stores jostling over how to sell talented, popular artists, among other things.

It caught my attention b/c it mentions U2. It bothered me b/c it made accused U2 of being sellouts. It made me even more upset b/c it is very honest and practically indefensible. The entire article can be found on forbes.com or youtwo.net. This excerpt below contains the inflammatory accusation I am curious to read your recations.

This past holiday season Best Buy snared a two-week exclusive to sell U2's latest DVD,
Elevation 2001--U2 Live From Boston (at $18). As a sweetener, Best Buy also got the
rights to sell an out-of-print U2 greatest hits album. In return, Best Buy and its partners spent a reported $10 million promoting U2 on bus side advertising and in newspaper circulars, and even blasted the DVD from its in-store display televisions.

"It far exceeded our expectations," says Michael Linton, a consumer products veteran who was hired three years ago to promote the Best Buy brand. Such promotional tie-ins helped boost gross margins by two points to 22.4% for the first nine months of fiscal 2002. "We're thrilled," says Steven Berman, head of sales and marketing for Vivendi Universal's Interscope Geffen A&M Records, U2's label.

But not everyone is celebrating. "A fairly invidious way of gaining advantage," huffs Glen Ward, president and chief executive officer of North American operations for the Virgin Entertainment Group music stores. In retaliation for the slight, Virgin temporarily refused to carry the U2 DVD or promote any U2 album in its stores for up to five weeks.

"This is something that made everybody pretty furious," says Steve R. Wiley, co-owner of the independent Hoodlums New & Used Music in Tempe, Ariz. To fan the fires, Wiley dashed off an e-mail letter to 500 record labels and distributors that accused U2 of "one of the biggest corporate sellouts of all time."


My reaction:
1. I liked the fact that the DVD sold so well b/c it shows that the public enjoys U2 very much

2. U2 has always maintained a high priority on maintaining control of their work(which they received in the 80's) b/c they did not want their music used to sell corporations(commercials, etc...) due to the fact that it hurts the integrity of the music. Although this is not selling any product but their own, it contradicts their earlier beliefs.

3. Bono opened a concert at the World Economic Forum a few weeks back with the words, "Corporate Motherfucker's"--if these people are corporate motherfuckers and he does not like them, then why is he working with them? He and the band, seem VERY hypocritical here.

4. Some of U2's early stances against American Consumerism and Materialism are totally contradicted by these current actions.

5. The fact that Best Buy sold the item sooner than other outlets probably caused the other music companies to become angry and they may have vented their anger toward U2 instead.

6. The small, independent music store has a good point, but he does sound like sour grapes.

7. I guess you could make a case that U2 could have profited even more by selling the DVD at every store immediately at a higher price. This gave some fans the opp. to buy it at an affordable price.

8. U2 also partnered with a store called Target in the US only and has recently sold a rare disc called U27. Although it is cheap($7), this is another example of teaming up with a big corporation. They also had VH1 and MTV sponsor the Elevation tour.

I don't like that fact that U2's earnings have been glorified in the press recently. However, they only have themselves to blame. I realize that much of these financial connections are the work of Paul McGuiness. His intentions are to handle the "business" side of things. But the band members certainly have control over their music and did not have to partake in these corporate dealings if they did not want to. I hate to admit it, but it seems that U2 is heading down the path of many of their rock predesessors--we're getting old, so lets make as much as while we can.

Look, every musican who sells their record--in an independent small store or a corporate giant like Best Buy or Virgin--in some way is selling out. U2 had made it clear that they want to be the Biggest Band in the world and that requires compromise. However, U2 seem to be compromising and profiting now more than ever, which hurts their integrity somewhat.
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Old 02-21-2002, 02:42 PM   #2
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I'm not even going to get into this whole discussion as I think it is all complete bullshit. Sour grapes times 10 is what it sounds like to me by these other record stores. Who is the real sellout, U2 for giving their fans a price break on a DVD, or this music store that sends out U2 hate mail cause they aren't getting the money from U2's DVD? Sounds like he's the one who is concerned with profits.

Also, just one other thing. The Elevation tour is PRESENTED BY MTV AND VH1 - NOT SPONSORED BY MTV AND VH1. This is a HUGE difference in that it means that MTV and VH1 will do promotion for the concert, give updates about it etc..., but they are in no way giving U2 money to sponsor it. And just for you info, this was also the case for ZooTV and Popmart.
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Old 02-21-2002, 02:45 PM   #3
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I have been very bothered recently with the corporate selling out that U2 have been doing. They've been talking out of both sides of their mouths a lot lately.

First they complain about the lack of diversity in music and overly produced pop stuff and then they proceed to give their support to Best Buy and Target. One of the main reasons for the lack of diversity and "corporate pop" is these big chains who have aggressively drive the smaller record stores out of business. If there are only a handful of places to get music then you can only get what they sell. Those places will only carry safe bets for lots of sales, hence banal music that appeals to the broadest audience.

I realize that U2 wants to promote their work and get it out there and that requires working with promotors and the media and such. Fine, that's the nature of the business they are in. Maybe the CD given away on Microsoft Software could be stretched to be considered promotion. But the Target and Best Buy things have no defensible rationale as far as promotion and exposure. Both would have sold no matter where they were offered. I see no reason other than making a quick easy buck and kissing the ass of a couple of corporations.

Plus supporting large aggressive corporations is in direct conflict with Bono's work for Africa. Corporate influence in government and trade is one of the chief culprites in the problems there.

I reaize they are human and subject to the same foibles as the rest of us, so it's not a huge deal. It's just kind of sad to see them move so quickly from blasting something to embracing it within a couple of years. Announcing their Popmart tour in Kmart was supposed to be ironic, now it seems more like prophetic.

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Old 02-21-2002, 02:50 PM   #4
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I don't like the idea of smaller independent stores getting frozen out. Best Buy, Target, shouldn't rule the music world.

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Old 02-21-2002, 04:06 PM   #5
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U2 were a band that were born of '70's punk ingenuity and fire. come the '80's they emerged within the U.S. market to become a mainstream band. Through the '90's they gained a market power that allowed them to delve into experiments in music and live events. as much as all of us fans have seen the band changed, we must realize that the entertainment industry has changed to an exponentially larger degree. the same 'relevance' which describes U2 at the moment, something which we all celebrate, would not be possible if U2 as a business were not changing at an equal rapid pace.

what's that-U2 as a business? i propose that they always have been and always will be a business entity almost as much as an artistic one. they make the music but when it's time to hit market, in our present environment, it needs to hit the market wide. it has to be huge.

bono is not calling for an end to corporations-that is simply ridiculous and unimaginable. corporations do have a place in our lives at this point, like it or not, as there are numerous examples of corporate power usurping governmental ones. that's our present climate and so we must exist within it.

what bono is asking for is responsibility and compassion from NGO's, governments, corporations and us. that is all.

oh, as for the 'corporate motherf*ckers' comment: i did not hear of that but will take it as true and am going to have to go out on a limb and say it was said tongue in cheek as if he were to mean that standing in front of the WEF he would have been mauled.

oh yes, i forgot, can we please stop using the term 'sell out'?

[This message has been edited by kobayashi (edited 02-21-2002).]
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Old 02-21-2002, 07:24 PM   #6
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Its hard to call them sellouts... anyone here willing to pay $50+ for concert tix and $16+ for cds shouldnt be talking. They make music, they sell music, you buy the music by your own choice, if you think its selling out then why dont you go to the mom&pop record stores and buy the albums there 3 or 4 weeks after everyone else? Its just other corporations complaining because they werent the ones making the money, I garuntee you that had U2 made a deal elsewhere the stores would be singing a much different song. Capitalism at its best, we want your money, but if we dont get it, we'll blame everyone else. Its a dirty business, unless you want U2 to pull out of mainstream music and start their own independant label, then just can it, one way or another, theyre going to be selling music. All this betrayal of their statements and morals and whatever is garbage... What does bono do with his money? Hmmm lets see, 3rd world debt, Amnesty, countless other charitable organizations... I dont see anyone else doing that other than to get publicity. Bono has always been doing things like that. Its unfair to say that just because hes making money that hes a sellout... hes far from it.


Yes, another crass 2 cents worth from a pissed off and ill UFF... Thank you.
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Old 02-21-2002, 09:56 PM   #7
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To me a sellout is all about the money. As long as U2 makes music the way they want to, I don't care how they choose to distribute it.
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Old 02-22-2002, 11:23 AM   #8
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Quote:
Originally posted by womanfish:
I'm not even going to get into this whole discussion as I think it is all complete bullshit. Sour grapes times 10 is what it sounds like to me by these other record stores. Who is the real sellout, U2 for giving their fans a price break on a DVD, or this music store that sends out U2 hate mail cause they aren't getting the money from U2's DVD? Sounds like he's the one who is concerned with profits.

Also, just one other thing. The Elevation tour is PRESENTED BY MTV AND VH1 - NOT SPONSORED BY MTV AND VH1. This is a HUGE difference in that it means that MTV and VH1 will do promotion for the concert, give updates about it etc..., but they are in no way giving U2 money to sponsor it. And just for you info, this was also the case for ZooTV and Popmart.
With all due respect, you seem to be the one who is "sour grapes." You also come off sounding rather condescending with the additional info. regarding previous tours. I know that U2 did not receive any corporate sponsorship for those tours, thank you. I simply try to add some objectivity in a rather biased world, that's all.

You seem annoyed because--The truth hurts. You may not want to admit it, but what I presented and what was written was based on FACTS. In this example, the main objective in partnering w/corporations was to make money. Plain and simple. Sure they wanted to expose their music and they are proud of it as it is some of their best work yet. However, there is a fine line between promoting yourself and over-selling yourself. This one wreaked of purposely earning money.

As for the VH1 & MTV deal. You have a very astute observation here and should be commended for that. However, neither you nor I have any factual evidence either way that U2 did or did not receive money from either organization(if you do, please exspouse your knowledge on the rest of us). All I know is my tickets had VH1 and MTV printed on it and that is suspicious.

I continue to support U2 by purchasing their music and attending their concerts, etc... and probably will continue to do so for a long, long time. However, just b/c I point out something that is questionable, dubious and contradictory to the bands beliefs, does not mean that it is bullshit or that I am any less of a fan.

Remember, those who criticize their own beliefs, causes and passions in life have the greatest love for those things as well.
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Old 02-22-2002, 04:30 PM   #9
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Quote:
Originally posted by MBH:
With all due respect, you seem to be the one who is "sour grapes." You also come off sounding rather condescending with the additional info. regarding previous tours. I know that U2 did not receive any corporate sponsorship for those tours, thank you. I simply try to add some objectivity in a rather biased world, that's all.
With all due respect, I feel that it is you who are condescending. You talk about the "truth hurting" - however, you mistated information and misled people with your opening post. Your first post gave the impression that U2 received $$ from MTV/VH-1 for their Elevation tour. Womanfish corrected you by noting the difference between "sponsoring" and "presenting" and then stated the exact same thing that I thought - namely that U2's other tours were also presented by MTV/VH-1.

Articles analogous to your post, which contain misleading information, are what we see all the time in the press. Now, it is easy to forgive you for your slight error. However, when we see a similar statement made by a writer in a major newspaper/magazine (as we so often have) it is very annoying - because just the tiniest amount of fact-checking would have shown the truth. It seems that people don't want the truth - they just want whatever data they can find to back up their own hypthoseses. In other words, it's as if they already formed their conclusions, now it's time to get the data.

While your comments about U2's apparent sudden favoritism of corporations has merit, a little checking suggests that things aren't as obvious as they seem.

First, these complaining retailers only speak the half-truth for they have often done the same thing with other artists. Should Best Buy now boycott Target because of "7"? Should Coca-Cola boycott anything with Britney Spears because of Pepsi-Cola? It truly is a case of sour grapes. If the DVD flopped, no one would care. But it became a hit and others are complaining because they lost out on 2 weeks worth of $$. This is not an example of the "little guy" getting hurt. The comments you quoted are from one major chain complaining about another major chain. There is no "little guy" in sight.

It's easy to take quotes from 1979 regarding U2's apparent anti-corporation views and ask, "Where's that U2 I once loved?" But keep in mind, this is 2002. The world we knew in 1979 no longer exists. Back then, an artist didn't have to have a #1 hit on the very first try. If U2 were signed today and had the somewhat mild sales they saw with "Boy" and "October," I highly doubt they would have been around to record "War."

The world of marketing has changed - and it's Paul McGuinness' job to flow with the times. He can't sit back and shout, "screw the corporations!" - for it's these corporations that are selling his clients' products. So he must work with these corporations. And when you have Britney stripping for Pepsi, N'Sync singing about Ribs, Backstreet Boys dancing for McDonalds and numerous artists badly acting/singing in Gap commercials, *something* must be done to bring U2 to the public's eye. Would you rather see U2 sing about the "glories of extra crispy chicken" or have a U2 DVD released 2 weeks early to one store chain? To me, the latter is the obvious answer - it's marketing done with style.

Some artists do turn their backs on all corporations - but tell me, how many of these artists are truly succeeding today? There may be some well-established acts who can succeed without marketing, like Dylan, but even older artists like Barry Manilow sing at the Super Bowl. Neil Young hooked up with then super-hot Pearl Jam to expose his music to a new generation of fans. In other words, it's clear that artists must find ways to market themselves at some level. Those who truly oppose all corporations also die out rather quickly. Note how the once mighty Pearl Jam now barely registers a blip on the Billboard charts. Sad as it may be, it's become obvious that marketing and promotion is what is needed in today's world to succeed.

One term I hate is "selling out. I hate those two words as I feel they are overused - and almost always incorrectly used. To me, the definition of "selling-out" is doing something AGAINST your instinct or style simply to get $$. Releasing a DVD 2 weeks early to one chain in order to gain a bit of promotion is hardly "selling-out." Singing in BBQ ribs commercials, however, IS selling-out. Some even accuse U2 of "selling out" simply for DARING to sound like U2 on this last album!! The audacity of U2 to sound like U2! They must be sell-outs!

Hence, if we really evaluate U2's actions, I would say that they aren't now shaking hands with corporations - they have just figured out how to use corporations to get the best deal for both themselves and their fans. There is a difference - and it's not selling out.

[This message has been edited by doctorwho (edited 02-22-2002).]
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Old 02-22-2002, 04:41 PM   #10
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*bows down to doctorwho*

fabulous post.
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Old 02-22-2002, 05:26 PM   #11
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*bows down to doctorwho*

fabulous post.
*blushes

Why thank you Sula!
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Old 02-22-2002, 05:45 PM   #12
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GREAT post doctorwho, you said it perfectly. And to me (my radical opinion only) the whole concept of "selling out" is sooooo High School. Selling out is a concept that dies by the time you turn 30 if you live in the real world.
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Old 02-22-2002, 05:53 PM   #13
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Actually, to the Good Doctor, I don't think we fans mind the corporate tie-ins so much as much as what appears to be hypocrisy. If u2 wants to embrace the corporate mentality like everyone else, so be it. We still love the music. But we shouldn't pretend that they haven't compromised their business integrity. And while they haven't used their songs to promote the glories of Oldsmobile, they did lend songs like 'UTEOTW' and 'Desire', which have deep, deep meanings to plug the football playoffs. And I presume that they didn't do it for free.

u2 is my favorite band, always will be. I think they do have more integrity than most bands, but let's try to use some objective judgments. There's nothing wrong with making money from your music - hell, even Dylan doesn't GIVE his CDs away. But let's admit that the promotional tie-ins are a money-making gambit. And they do hurt smaller stores and bands. There is a cause-and-effect relationship.

And funny that you mention Neil Young and Pearl Jam. Young sang about this very thing in the blistering 'This Note's For You.' And Pearl Jam is hardly irrelevant: their integrity - trying to fight Ticketmaster, exercising restraint in public appearances, even their fan-friendly Live CD series - assures that they'll be around long after the flavors of the months such as Britney and N'Suck have disappeared.

I am guilty, too. I bought the DVD at Best Buy, the CD at Target. I enjoyed them, but I can't help but wonder if a bit of the gold hasn't rubbed off the band I fell in love with in the late 80s and early 90s. Maybe they've changed. Or maybe I have.

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Old 02-22-2002, 06:10 PM   #14
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Would you rather see U2 sing about the "glories of extra crispy chicken" or have a U2 DVD released 2 weeks early to one store chain?
LMAO...

I agree with you DoctorWho.... a lot of people got pissed when they went on Talk show circuit to promote ATYCLB. However, if they didn't, they wouldn't have expanded their fan base to the "younger generation."

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Old 02-22-2002, 06:11 PM   #15
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I must be an acrobat to talk like this and act like that….


Working at the University of Utah while school is out for the Olympics has left me with a lot of time on my hands so here’s an essay for you as I leave for the weekend

Doctorwho makes some very good points. “Selling out” is and overused word and is the wrong word for what has annoyed some of us concerning the Best Buy and Target deals. I’m mainly bugged because supporting that type of corporation flies in the face of what U2 says is wrong with the music business, and also the work Bono is doing for Africa.

The other thing I think may be bothering a number of people is the fact that U2 may not hold certain values that they thought they shared. It’s gratifying to find others who share your values (especially if they play really good music ), so it’s naturally going to be disheartening if it becomes apparent that the other party no longer holds those values (or perhaps never did.) For the folks who identified with values U2 were espousing in the mid 1990s—when they claimed that they would be making music for themselves and that they no longer had to worry about how many records they sold; and later when they were supposedly parodying what they didn’t believe—the abrupt about-face is naturally a bit disappointing.

Some say it’s hypocrisy, but more likely it’s simply that U2 learned something about themselves in the late 1990s that they didn’t know before that. It appears that the relatively slack sales for Pop and the negative press surrounding Popmart taught them that they did in fact care what other people thought. It is very easy to say “we don’t care about record sales or critics, we’re just going to make the music we want” when you recently had a couple of top selling, critically acclaimed records. But when they weren’t on top they discovered that selling records, getting critical acclaim, winning awards, etc. was what was most important to them. This time around they behaved accordingly and staged an aggressive (and some would say somewhat shameless) campaign to get back on top that has been quite effective.

Whether it’s right or wrong, good or bad, up or down, is a matter of personal opinion. If a person never identified with those earlier values, the current state of affairs would not bother him or her at all. For those of us that it does bother, it is good to remember that they are human and all humans are hypocrites at some level. A noted psychologist once said “Humans are not rational beings, we are rationalizing beings.” How true that is, as can often be witnessed on this forum.

At any rate, they still make great music and are the best live band on the planet.

In a funny way, there is a wonderful potential for Bono to be a really good role model with his debt relief work not just in spite of his hypocrisy, but because of it. Sure he is guilty of glaring hypocrisy. There he is, this spoiled rock star telling others what they should do to help people with nothing. There he is blasting the “obscenity of this ever widening gap between rich and poor” while at the same time working to widen the wealth gap between himself and everyone else by kissing up to aggressive corporations that foster and, in fact, rely on that wide gap between rich and poor. Finally it’s obvious that all the hobnobbing with world leaders and powerful business people is feeding Bono’s already expansive ego

Despite all that, it is equally obvious that his heart is in the right place and he really is trying to make the world a better place. He is actually a super-sized example of everyone who has ever been out there trying to do public service. We’re all hypocrites—The environmentalist who drives a car more than necessary, the human rights activist who buys clothes from a store like Target where the majority, if not all, the clothes are made by workers in sweat shops, the list goes on and on—and we all get our egos stroked through our public service.

Although most of us at least try to “walk our talk”, pretty much everyone falls short. That leads to one of the main reasons more people don’t speak out about injustice or try to affect change in the world—they think they have to be perfect when it comes to their own lives, and that they have to know absolutely everything about an issue before they have a right to speak up. People are afraid to be called “hypocrites” or to be taken to task for not knowing something. That’s why Bono’s example is so great. He’s an example of someone who is obviously a hypocrite and knows it, yet doesn’t let that stop him. He has the courage to take the criticism and other "lumps" and to keep going. (That overblown ego does come in handy sometimes ) Does that mean he isn’t accountable for his actions? No. He should feel obligated to try to become more congruent between his words and his actions, but he doesn’t use his failings as an excuse to do nothing and that is a lesson for us all.

Have a good weekend everyone


[This message has been edited by u2utah (edited 02-25-2002).]
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Old 02-22-2002, 06:18 PM   #16
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Beautiful, Utah.
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Old 02-22-2002, 06:47 PM   #17
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I don't mind the corporate tie ins, heck I find the Chilli's commericals entertaining to a degree. But don't some of these exclusivity deals (alah Target) or Best Buy favoritism hurt smaller record stores who are having a hrd time competing with super stores? That part was also mentioned in the diatribes made by U2Utah and MBH. Does anyone have comment on that?

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Old 02-22-2002, 07:03 PM   #18
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Really great and fair posts from doctorwho and u2utah--you've both given us a lot to contemplate. You both really articulated my personal mixed feelings on the subject.

I have nothing to add except that I am not one to hold anyone to what they said many years ago. I swore I'd never drive a sporty little car with leather seats and a sunroof, but...that was before I had my midlife crisis and realized, hey! I can afford it! And it's fun! Life is short! (Not that that is in any way a realistic comparison...)

I have gotten a little queasy about some of U2's marketing decisions during the last year, and yet at the same time, I really believe in my heart that they're good guys doing the best they can to maintain their integrity in navigating the creepy world of rock & roll marketing. Maybe that sounds simplistic and naive, but I really want to extend to them that benefit of the doubt. And I'd also really like to hear them speak directly about it. I'd like to see an interview where Bono is asked these tough questions and hear what he has to say about it. I just don't think any of us know what's really going on behind the scenes and behind these decisions.
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Old 02-22-2002, 07:04 PM   #19
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I'm really curious to know why people are making the assumption that U2 has promised to help small grassroots music stores. Is this something I missed? Are they reneging on some sacred vow? Or are we putting words in their mouths?
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Old 02-22-2002, 09:23 PM   #20
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People need to realize that U2 used to do all kinds of promotional and marketing things similar to what they have done now back in the early 1980s! I have followed the band closely for a long time and have never heard them say, were not going to promote ourselves. The main area's of promotion where the most money is made from is 1st: Radio Airplay, 2nd Video Play and 3rd Concerts. The band has done all 3 for over 20 years.
The whole Idea that POP was created for themselves and ATYCLB was created just to sell is a total Myth. The POPMART tour was one of the highest Grossing Highest attended tours in History! 93 shows with 4 million in attendance. Elevation has so far done 113 shows but 2.3 million in attendance. POPMART Grossed 171 million worldwide while Elevation has done 143 million.
No doubt the band was in Arena's this time so the attendance would not be the same. I'm just emphasizing to those that do not know, just how successful POPMART was. The band is more popular now because they have produced a body of work on ATYCLB that is superior to the unfinished work of POP. Airplay for the two albums has been about the same, although ATYCLB has sold double of POP. But it has not been because of TV shows.
Realize that those of you who complain are Americans complaining about what is happening in the USA with certain record stores. The USA is only 30% of U2s market. The thing with Target and best buy is something that Interscope and Universal did and not the band. It is a minor irrelevant thing.
The band has in one way or another been accused of selling out by fans, and businesses since 1987! I don't see the band saying or doing anything that would contradict what they said and did back in the early 1980s, with the emphasis on what band and record company were doing back in the early 80s.
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