Jim Carroll

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One for the U2 watchers in the audience: Paul McGuinness on the band’s career

Paul McGuinness provides more details on U2′s change of management in a new interview with Billboard magazine

The early days: Paul McGuinness with U2 at an Island Records party in 1980. Photograph: L Cohen/ WireImage/Getty

Thu, Jan 23, 2014, 09:43


There’s a very insightful interview with long-time U2 manager Paul McGuinness over on Billboard at the moment. McGuinness, who stepped down as U2′s manager last November, is due to receive the 2014 Billboard Industry Icon Award at the MIDEM conference in Cannes next week so he sat down for a chat with Ray Waddell.

The interview covers a lot of ground, moving from the band’s early days and their first American adventures right through to the superstar biggest-band-in-the-world years. There’s a great quote about why McGuinness got into management (“the only reason I wanted to manage a band at all was because I wanted to manage a very big band. I certainly wasn’t doing it philanthropically”), while there’s some very insightful details about why the band left their long-established agents to throw their lot in with Live Nation.

He also talks about the band’s early decision to concentrate as much on the live side of the business as records, something which not a lot of acts were doing back in the day. “It has been fascinating over the last decade or more to see the change in status and regard for the concert business and concert people”, notes McGuinness. “I remember back in the early ’80s the labels tended to behave in a very patriarchal and lofty fashion toward the concert people, who they regarded as sort of carnie folk. That has changed for the artists, it’s changed for the executives, and it has changed for the journalists.”

There are also some additional details on the recent change of management which saw McGuinness give way to Guy Oseary. McGuinness say he’s stepping down because he didn’t feel like doing the next tour. “I’ve been to pretty well every show U2 have ever performed, and I just did not want to continue doing that into my 60s.”

Live Nation’s involvement in the change of management related, says McGuinness, to providing finance. “The rights to U2’s music, their masters and their copyrights, have been, with difficulty and at some costs, completely retrieved. I had some equity participation in that, but the right people to sell that equity to were the band. That’s really what has happened in this transaction: U2 have acquired the remaining rights, and they now own 100% of their masters and their copyrights. Live Nation were very helpful in supporting the transaction. They financed the transaction.” Jeepers, you never think the U2 lads were short of a few bob to pay for a purchase like that.

McGuinness says he’ll be assuming what we might call the Alex Ferguson role in U2′s day to day activities. “I will be, if you like, lurking in the background, always available to help if I am needed, but it’s more of a back-seat role.”

Meanwhile, the U2 machine continues to crank up ahead of the release of the new album. While there’s already been one bizarre story about new music from the nand – Dave Fanning, of all people, claimed to be playing a new U2 song and played something else entirely – and there are sure to be more to come. Watch out for rumoured Superbowl shenanigans involving the band and, sources indicate, a new surprise sponsor for the U2 brand.