That was an interesting email that U2.com sent out last week, wasn't it? It's not often that you'd expect to get a suggestion from the official site for ANY artist to not buy something that's going to be released commercially soon. But that's pretty much what U2.com said in that email.
I'm referring to the news of From The Ground Up, the forthcoming official photo book of the U2 360 tour. On Friday, U2.com account holders (free and paid) received an email that said this:
From The Ground Up, the official photo book of the U2360° tour, is all set for publication in just a couple of months.
This handsome hardback featuring photography from Ralph Larmann and text by Dylan Jones is published in October but if you're a U2.com subscriber, don't order it yet...
We're delighted to announce that we'll be releasing a special edition of From The Ground Up - just for our U2.com subscribers.
Featuring the same text and photography, this special edition comes with a little something extra - including more exclusive live tracks from U2360°.
No U2.com offer has been as warmly received as the current one with U22 so our 2012/13 package will bring you even more live tracks from U2360°. This will all be part of the surprise when the different elements of the new subscription offer are announced in October. With this email we wanted to give you a heads up that U2360° From The Ground Up will be part of the deal.
Bold/emphasis is mine. "Don't order it yet..."
It seems strange to see them directly undercutting public sales like this, which probably also undercuts someone's royalties (depending how the book contracts were drawn up, of course). We talked about this on our staff-only mailing list over the past couple days, and my contribution to the conversation was something like this:
There must be more money in selling U2.com subscriptions than in selling books. Even with the U2.com offer, the book will still sell adequately to casual U2 fans (non U2.com account holders) that will see it on bookshelves in the last few weeks of the holiday shopping season. But they'll sell a lot more U2.com subscriptions than they might have otherwise sold, and those accounts probably have a very good renewal/retention rate, which means ongoing income year after year.
I think U2/Live Nation is smart to (finally) focus on making the U2.com fan club worthwhile. They don't really have a choice now. The days of getting a cover feature on Rolling Stone, an interview on the BBC and some exposure on French, German and Italian TV and turning that kind of exposure into a five-million selling album are done.
Times have changed. This isn't 1987. It's not even 1997 or 2007, for that matter. Today, if you want massive exposure, one of the best ways is to have a huge mailing list of fans/followers that you can market to freely. That's how you might still have a chance at selling five million (or more) albums next year.
On a more practical level, I also like the email because it's nice to see U2.com trying to avoid the inevitable anger and frustration that fans would've felt if they'd bought the book and then later learned that it was going to be part of the membership package for next year.
If you're an Ali Hewson fan, you'll probably like this new interview/feature that's in a UK magazine called aMUSE.
And if you're not an Ali Hewson fan ... wow. What's wrong with you? ;-)
This might've slipped under your radar (or above your wallet): Rock and Popular Music in Ireland: Before and After U2. It's a hardback book aimed at the academic audience. Eighty dollars is a lot of money, even if it is 352 pages long. It was released back in February, Amazon says.
And finally ... it was 11 years ago today that this column launched on @U2. The first column -- and many afterwards -- also had a contribution from Answer Guy, our former wise-cracking U2 guru who could answer any question thrown at him. If you've only been reading our site for a few years, you may not know about Answer Guy. I wouldn't know where to begin explaining him, but you could begin by reading the most popular thing he ever wrote on @U2: a frame-by-frame breakdown of the "Electrical Storm" video.
Until next time, thx for reading!
(c) @U2, 2012.