U2’s 13th album “Songs of Innocence” launched alongside the launch of iPhone 6: half a billion subscribers to iTunes received “Songs of innocence” in their accounts, paid for by Apple and consumed for free. It’s an awesome deal for the U2, but money has never been what drives them…it’s their ethos; to keep searching, to keep toiling that drives them.
U2 remains the biggest stars in the music business, a business that has seen more turbulence than any other industry due to Internet: music industry revenues have more than halved since 2000. Apple and U2 have joined forces at a pivotal time for each other. iTunes is under attack from interactive streaming services such as Spotify, Pandora and it’s own Beats, but revenues coming out of such streaming services are miniscule and an entire generation of consumers has developed a habit of not buying or owning music.
Question then is why has U2 succeeded in an industry (music) that sucks:
1) Only U2 sounds exactly like U2. Their music is so uniquely different.
2) U2 is obsessed with excellence. They worried when a magazine recently described their new album as “very very good.” U2 settles only for greatness.
3) U2 the band has been together for 38 years, but it’s members (founders: Bono, Edge, Clayton and Mullen) are not only together, but really like each other even now.
4) No band on the planet has done a bigger tour than U2 and their music fills stadiums. This is crucial in an era where music is being consumed for free, and live performances is what people pay for. The band has found many other ways to generate income besides selling records: merchandising; promotional tie-ups; synchronization fees from TV, film, video games and advertising; and most of all, live performance. U2’s 360 degrees tour in 2011 grossed $772M, highest ever tour measured by both attendance and box-office gross!
They have a higher purpose than selling music or making money. Bono co-founded ONE to combat global poverty. His understanding of global poverty is sophisticated and his determination to mobilize global help to fight poverty is real. Now they have teamed up with Apple to create a new audiovisual format with a mission to make consumers willingly pay to own music again, pinning their hopes on new format to help struggling fellow artists.
So what’s there for a modern-day-tech-founder to learn from the epic journey of U2?
1) Be uniquely different.
2) Stand for something bigger than yourself, money and market-share. Your larger mission sustains you through the ups and down. It helps you build a loyal following and gives you resilience to survive fads.
3) Build a team and an alliance that survives through the highs and lows.
4) Be a hero; don’t take short-cuts. Don’t be afraid to go through hell before you realize your potential. An epic journey is worth a lifetime.
5) Be good, don’t be evil.
[Guest contribution by Rajesh Sawhney, founder of GSF accelerator.]