When Paul McGuinness, managing director of Principle Management, believes in something, he has the ears of the fan, artist and industry communities like few others. That certainly could be said for U2, the group he took on as four Dublin rookies who are now the biggest band in the world. And the same could be said for his ongoing defense of creative content in the digital age.
While managing U2 creates the platform, McGuinness’ power as a thought leader comes through his innate ability to start a dialogue surrounding complex industry issues that even fans can understand—he has the power and the pulpit. He created a stir by publicly airing his thoughts on Internet service providers and piracy at MIDEM four years ago, and he made that case in an even more pointed way at a MIDEM session this year. Both moments created global headlines. “Ultimately, it is in [technology sector stakeholders’] interest that the flow of content will continue, and that won’t happen unless it’s paid for,” McGuinness said. “Though there is some improvement in the digital environment in terms of people getting paid, the vast majority of content distributed through their pipes is not paid for. That’s, in my view, utterly, utterly wrong.”
McGuinness believes the subscription model is ultimately the best solution. “I would hope in a few years’ time we’ll be sitting in a room saying, ‘What was all that fuss about? Why did it take so long to get it together?’”
Meanwhile, there are rumblings that U2 is gearing up for a new record/tour cycle that could begin next year. The band’s last tour in 2010-11, 360°, blew up the paradigm for rock tours on technical and production levels, as well as its final numbers. The total gross of $736.4 million and total attendance of 7.3 million, according to Billboard Boxscore, are each the highest in history, and will likely stand for a very long time.