How Media Can Connect with Their Customers, according to U2

There was a terrific article in Monday’s NYT (Media Age Business Tips From U2) on U2 the corporation, and the lessons the band holds for other forms of Media:

"On the surface, the formula U2 used to send 20,000 fans into sing-along rapture at Madison Square Garden last Tuesday night was as old as rock ‘n’ roll: four blokes, three instruments, a bunch of good songs. Add fans, cue monstrous sound system, light fuse and back away.

But that does not explain why, 25 years in, four million people will attend 130 sold-out shows this year and next that will gross over $300 million and how their most recent album, "How to Dismantle an Atomic Bomb," has already sold eight million copies.

For that, you have to look at U2 less as a band than as a multimillion-dollar, multinational media company, one of the smarter ones around."

Interesting take. The author breaks down what U2 does right into a few bullet points:

Meet The Consumers Where They Live

Apologize, Then Move On

Embrace Technology

Don’t Embarrass Your Fans

Be Careful How You Sell Out

Embrace Politicians, Not Politics

It’s Called Show Business For A Reason

Seize The Moment, But Don’t Steal It

Aim High

For anyone in the Media business (Newspapers, Magazines, Internet, TV, Music, Film) the entire piece is well worth reading. (You can see some snaps I took at last Tuesday’s concert here).



Media Age Business Tips From U2
David Carr
NYT, November 28, 2005

Print Friendly, PDF & Email

What's been said:

Discussions found on the web:
  1. calgal commented on Nov 29

    This is a comment about U2-I think you’re leaving out the bigges factor… Jesus.

  2. calgal commented on Nov 29

    This is a comment about U2-I think you’re leaving out the bigges factor… Jesus.

    EDITOR: I was thinking of deleting this (too weird) but what the Hell — I’ll leave it . . .

  3. Riley Murphy commented on Nov 29

    Don’t forget …cheetos.

    Not to compare Jesus to cheetos.

    But I sure bet he would have liked them.

  4. gabriela. commented on Nov 29


    So, let’s say, the “bullet points” are the10 commandments.
    If it is, there all going to hell.
    One contradicting point, after the next.

    You should seize and steal every moment. The chances of you recieving another is well – LOW.

    I like U2, but sometimes you have got to give it up, and stop TRYING to change something that really doesn’t want or need to be changed.

    Kudos to Mr. Carr, I guess.

  5. calgal commented on Nov 29

    Dear Editor,
    Why do you think its weird. For years U2 has proclaimed their Christian status. As a matter of fact-the drummer used to joke that he thought he would get kicked out of the band because he wasn’t religious enough. Recently, Bono said in an interview that Jesus brought him together with George Bush to fight AIDS in Africa.

  6. Riley Murphy commented on Nov 29

    Seriously calgal?
    I’ve never heard that before.
    It is interesting that the christian message was never that obvious to me – assuming U2 projected one in their music. Any examples of this?

  7. calgal commented on Nov 29

    Montreal Gazette, November 26, 2005

    Bernard Perusse

    The musical landscape was pretty daunting when a scruffy group of Dubliners, once known as the Hype, decided to bring God on their musical journey.

    A quarter century ago, any rock ‘n’ roller using the G-word was courting either commercial suicide or a one-way ticket to the Christian-rock ghetto. During that post-punk era, George Harrison, Bob Dylan and Van Morrison were still singing about spirituality, but nobody hip was listening.

    When the now-rechristened U2 announced its presence with the insistent guitar phrase that ushered in “I Will Follow” — the opening track on its first album, Boy — the group was laying the groundwork for a very non-rock challenge: love me, love my God. If you look at their album and ticket sales, you might argue that the fans accepted those terms.

    Bono might have been singing about his late mother in that song, but when he boldly spat out “I was lost, I am found,” he was invoking Christian language to drown his sorrow. Matters of faith, doubt, spiritual joy and even dark nights of the soul returned with each of the next 10 U2 albums.

    The closing track on War (1983) was “40,” an allusion to Psalm 40 of the Old Testament. On Zooropa (1993), the group had fellow Christian Johnny Cash sing “The Wanderer,” inspired by the Book of Ecclesiastes. Its latest disc, last year’s How to Dismantle an Atomic Bomb, closes with Yahweh, a prayer by Bono and guitarist the Edge.

  8. Karmakin commented on Nov 29

    Yahweh is a prayer for America, actually. “A city should be shining on a hill”.

    But the reason U2 have been successful with it, is that it’s not just about the light, but the dark, and the good and the bad of each, and how it all does this dance all around each other…a mating dance of sorts.

    To be honest, spiritually, I’m more interested in James/Tim Booth right now. Much more interesting and way more spiritual IMO.

  9. ElamBend commented on Nov 30

    Well, the band’s Christianity is new to me, however, their business focus is not. They have long looked at themselves as entertainers and have tried to make their shows as entertaining as possible. The best part is that they have always been completely upfront about it. In the early nineties they had one of their first tours to have corporate sponsors and they said, yes, because concerts can be expensive and this way we make a little more money, plus have more money to put on a more spectacular show for our fans. Their lack of posturing or cooler-than-thou attitude is refreshing. Bono has also shown himself to be a deft politician.

  10. calgal commented on Nov 30

    Mock the Devil
    U2, Christian?

    By Terry Mattingly, associate professor of mass media and religion at Palm Beach Atlantic College. He writes the nationally syndicated “On Religion” column for the Scripps Howard News Service.
    February 27, 2002 9:45 a.m.

    s the names of those lost on Sept. 11 scrolled up a towering screen, the singer kept reciting a verse from Psalm 51, in which King David pleaded for God’s mercy.

    “Oh Lord, open my lips,” he said, “that my mouth shall show forth thy praise.” Then the music rose in a crescendo, soaring into U2’s vision of a new heaven and earth, of a city “where there’s no sorrow and no shame, where the streets have no name.”

    This didn’t happen in a safe Christian sanctuary. This happened at halftime of Super Bowl XXXVI, in front of 131 million or so viewers around the world. But anyone who felt blindsided by this display of prayer hasn’t listened carefully to this band’s music, said the Rev. Steve Stockman, author of Walk On: The Spiritual Journey of U2 and Presbyterian chaplain of Queen’s University in Belfast, Northern Ireland.

    “I think they have been clear — for nearly25 years now — about the role Christian faith plays in their music. They’re not hiding anything,” he said. “At the same time, they have always left big spiritual questions hanging out there — unanswered. That is an interesting way to talk about art and that’s an interesting way to live out your faith, especially when you’re trying to do it in front of millions of people.”

    Stockman has never met the band. Still, there is no shortage of quotable material since Bono, in particular, has never been able to keep his mouth shut when it comes to sin, grace, temptation, damnation, salvation and revelation. Two others — drummer Larry Mullen Jr., and guitarist Dave “The Edge” Evans — have long identified themselves as Christians. Bassist Adam Clayton remains a spiritual free agent.

Posted Under