Goddamn hippies…


Heroin addiction and prescription pill binges are now the province of pop singers. And footballers have taken over as the new protagonists of “nasty as I wanna be” sex. So what mischief does that leave to the former kingpins of hell-raising: globally renowned rock stars?

If fearsome U2 boss Paul McGuinness, the band’s “fifth member” is any indication the answer is: whinging about money. He took the podium at Midem to unburden his soul about the evils of the “multibillion dollar [computer] industries that benefit from [the] tiny crimes” of internet file-sharers.

McGuiness blames the ills of the music industry on the Bill Gates and Steve Jobs of the world. Whom he preposterously compares to magazine publishers “advertising stolen cars, processing payments for them and arranging delivery.”

This is, of course, a purely academic argument where U2 are concerned. They are not short a few bob. Their Vertigo tour was the highest-grossing concert series of 2005 pulling in $260 (more than double the revenue of the next-largest grossing tour) and their most recent LP – How To Dismantle An Atomic Bomb – sold roughly eight million copies (a drop in the bucket of lifetime album sales of around 70 million).

You might think that if U2 are so exercised about the sad state of the music industry they could use some of their vast wealth and influence to explore new distribution streams, or offer their support (moral or otherwise) to innovative artists and technologies. But oh no. Much, much, much easier to bite the hand that feeds them. Much easier to take aim at the real enemy and dig right down to the rotten core of the problem, as McGuinness did when he took aim at the dangerous, subversive “hippy-ness” of the computer corporations.

“Embedded deep down in the brilliance of those entrepreneurial, hippy values seems to be a disregard for the true value of music,” he simpered. Painting, in one broad stroke, a compelling scene where a bunch of feckless long-hairs go about stealing bread from between the lips of hard-working, God-fearing Irish lads struggling to get by on just “three chords and the truth.”

Nice try, but McGuinness vision is so reality-shy as to be positively hallucinogenic. Who’s he calling a hippie? Uber-capitalist geeks like Bill Gates and Paul Allen? And what about painting U2 as embattled troubadours – upholders of the true value of music? Their understanding of the “true value of music” has helped them amass a collective fortune of 715 million Euro and recently prompted them to move their business proceedings to the Netherlands to take advantage of a tax shelter.

Nothing hippie about that. In fact, McGuinness criticism of Gates, et al smacks more of professional envy than moral outrage. U2 were happy to cosy up to Steve Jobs to release a U2 branded iPod. Now, apparently, that gravy-train has dried up and it’s crocodile tear-time. Sadly, for him, there’s nothing less attractive than a fat man crying.

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