Basically Paul McGuinness (above, right) is calling me a thief. It’s been all over the news. He gave a big speech at some conference in Cannes. See one story about it here. Money quote: “McGuinness challenged Steve Jobs, chief executive of Apple, to ‘apply his ingenuity’ to solving the music industry crisis. … `These are very clever people and a lot of fun to work with,’ McGuinness said about the technology and Internet community in Silicon Valley. `But they’ve been extremely socially irresponsible.’”
You can see the full text of his speech here.
Now look. I know Paul McGuinness. I’ve done business with him. He loves to tell everyone the story of how we sat down and made a deal on the back of a napkin. In one version of it he says that when he followed up a few weeks later I tried to change the terms and give myself a bigger slice but he whipped out his napkin and I was busted.
Whatever. I have no recollection of any such meeting. I will tell you that Paul was out in the Valley recently sniffing around and taking meetings and trying to figure out how this whole Interwebs thing works and where the money goes. I will also tell you that the Irish have a term called “a cute hoor” and Paul is definitely a prime example. Note, for example, that he says it’s not that U2 wants more money — it’s that I am being socially irresponsible. My goodness. Really?
The fact is that by the age of twelve your average Northsider from Dublin has forgotten more ways to skin you on a deal than any of us regular folks will ever know. And this speech by Paul McGuinness is a classic Northsider ploy. They play the victim. They dance around crying poor and moaning about the dole and the famine and meanwhile they’re cleaning out your pockets. Luckily for us the whole thing is blowing up in their faces and they’re getting savaged in the blogosphere.
What Paul needs to understand is that bands, like companies, have a normal lifespan and that U2 has gone well past its sell-by date. That’s just the reality here. Because let’s be honest. The truth is that Bono isn’t much of a singer, and Edge isn’t much of a guitarist, and Larry and Adam stopped getting better on their instruments back in about 1983. So these are four guys with a little bit of talent who got extremely lucky and were extremely shrewd and have milked their modest abilities for well more than they were ever worth.
Fine. Good for them. I’m happy for them. But to say that Apple is taking advantage of them is just ridiculous. Do you have any idea how hard it is to set up a store like iTunes? Or to design and build iPods? Does Paul McGuinness know that? Does he realize how many hundreds or even thousands of people are involved in making that whole system work correctly, from end to end? All the progammers and designers and engineers? All the user interface people? Not to mention the business people who cut the deals and interface with the talent and keep all the contracts up to date?
All of those people have to eat. None of them is getting rich. Well, except me. And maybe a few top guys right underneath me. But basically you’ve got thousands of hardworking people just making an honest living keeping this whole Internet distribution model alive and running.
Then you’ve got four retards from Dublin and their manager. Because ask yourself this. How much work do you think really went into writing any of those songs? Take it from me, I’ve hung out with Bono and the other guys and I’ve seen them when they’re drunk and I’ve heard them tell the stories. “Sunday Bloody Sunday” was written in ninety minutes when they were fucking around in their little rehearsal space. Started out with a drum beat, then some bass, then Edge threw some bullshit plink-plink guitar on it and Bono started shouting whatever came into his head. “Boy” and “October” were all just old stuff they’d written when they were in high school.
The entire “Atom Bomb” album took about a month from start to finish. I know because I was there when they were slapping it together. But now they think they aren’t getting paid enough. Well, I’ve got an idea. Maybe U2 could just make their own Internet, with their own routers and operating system, and they could code up their own store, and build their own iPods, and keep all the money for themselves. I think I’ll call Paul McGuinness right now and suggest that.