Column: off the record . . . vol. 11-470

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off the record, from @U2


I'd like to start off this week's column with an update from one of my favorite organizations, the African Well Fund. AWF volunteers were able to personally give Bono his "Build A Well For Bono's Birthday" card and birthday donation in Nashville on July 2. The card included all the well wishes from fans who donated to the campaign. This year, they were able to raise over $$16,000. Bono said, "You are the people who make my birthday every year" and expressed his gratitude to the organization and to all the donors who support them.

The AWF is still about $$5,500 shy of being able to fully fund the Bono’s Birthday Well campaign to provide clean water and sanitation projects at the four girls' schools in Benin supported by Angelique Kidjo's Batonga Foundation. For information on how to donate, visit the AWF’s website.

What a great week for U2 fans, eh? First, we announced our Q&A with Neil McCormick after the Lincoln Park Performing Arts Center’s screening of the film Killing Bono on the eve of U2's Pittsburgh show. Second, announced they would be streaming the second Montreal U2360 show in its entirety for paid subscribers, and non-paid members got to listen to the first three songs.

This is the first time that has streamed a show without the assistance of an independent radio station broadcasting the show. The surge for the site was so great that many in North America were unable to connect to for upwards of two hours. Personally, I couldn't connect and listen to the stream until "Out Of Control." While disappointing, behind the scenes I can assure you that the Zootopia moderators and the programmers were working with great diligence to get it up and running.

Fans such as myself have long advocated for the live streaming of shows for paid subscribers of, so it feels like a well-earned treat that we were able to enjoy the show in this way. The soundboard clarity was amazing. On behalf of fans everywhere, we are very thankful. And to U2 -- thank you for the "shine like stars" in "With Or Without You." Wow.

While on the topic of small victories, Paul McGuinness scored one this week when many of the major Internet service providers (ISPs) agreed on Thursday to police their subscribers who are caught illegally downloading copyright-protected music and films. The six-warning system agreed on by the providers will begin with a warning via email and will gradually escalate to legal mitigation and slower connection speeds. The providers have agreed not to terminate someone's Internet connection despite the six warnings, considered a sensible approach. Verizon’s Executive Vice President Randal Milch stated, "We hope that effort -- designed to notify and educate customers, not to penalize them -- will set a reasonable standard for both copyright owners and ISPs to follow, while informing customers about copyright laws and encouraging them to get content from the many legal sources that exist."

McGuinness responded to this latest development by writing an editorial in The Telegraph newspaper. He writes, "The ISP agreement in the U.S. is good news for music and the creative industries. It is time now for action elsewhere. In Europe, Commissioner Barnier is reviewing EU copyright enforcement rules for the digital age. This is a chance for Europe to use its legislative clout to get ISPs to cooperate."

PC Magazine has a great FAQ about what it means to consumers. Bottom line: Be a good consumer and don't pirate copyright material.  

In my last OTR column, I mentioned that fans' required summer reading needed to be Ticket Masters: The Rise Of The Concert Industry And How The Public Got Scalped, by Dean Budnick and Josh Baron. Just this week, Variety reported that with the help of the U2360 tour the industry saw an 11.2 percent increase in gross-dollar ticket sales. The authors used U2 as examples throughout the book, so I contacted them to see what more they could share about U2's role in the transformation of the industry. It was interesting to find out from Budnick that the authors did reach out to Paul McGuinness but never got a reply.

Budnick mentioned one interesting U2-related anecdote he wished had made it into the book: "The story behind Tom Ross' bid -- backed by a number of independent promoters -- for PopMart against Cohl. It was down to the two of them and McGuinness chose Cohl. Had Ross -- who led CAA's music division and was one of the most powerful agents in the country (if not the world) at the time -- won the bid with the various promoters, it could have shifted the history of who handles top tier level modern touring in a much different direction."

Budnick also gave his opinion as to why U2 made the decision to go with Cohl for the PopMart tour: "We would theorize -- and we do emphasize theorize -- that it was because Cohl had successfully promoted the Rolling Stones' Steel Wheels tour, which was a stadium-only affair. It was -- at the time -- a new model by which very few bands -- only the elite like the Stones, U2, Pink Floyd -- could tour by. And it was a model that made them a significant amount of money. So while the press reported that PopMart was financially unsuccessful (at least in the U.S.), the reality -- as Cohl relayed to me -- was there was plenty of profit being made via the various deals."

It makes you wonder, had U2 made a different choice in 1997, would there have been a Live Nation? I believe that one decision U2 made changed the landscape forever within the industry. Once again, this book is a must-read if you are a live-music consumer. Fascinating stuff!

And finally ... I remember watching the first space shuttle launch on television on April 12, 1981, with awe, wonder and anticipation. I am still filled with those same emotions, but also with a hint of sadness that this chapter of space exploration is coming to a close.

There have been many NASA/U2 collaborations on this tour, so for U2 and their crew with only 110 launches of the 360 stage, here's a page out of NASA's playbook on how to end their space program. Prior to the final shuttle launch on Friday morning, (mission 135 of the shuttle program), here's how their Closeout Crew shared their gratitude with everyone involved.

Have a great week! I hope to see you in Pittsburgh!

© @U2/Lawrence, 2011

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