Who moved my musical cheese?

U2 No Line on the Horizon

U2 - No Line on the Horizon

I just finished reading an article in which U2 drummer Larry Mullen has criticised music downloading, saying it has become soul destroying for young bands who want to become famous.  (Interview on @U2)

I don’t I agree with his assertion that the change in the music industry and music consumption is a bad thing:

“People don’t buy albums. It’s about individual songs. It’s very difficult for young bands and they end up having to do things and sell themselves in a way that would have been offensive when we were starting out.”

Back in the day the album became this pseudo art form unto itself, from song layout to artwork. Concept records like Rush “2112“, Pink Floyd “The Wall“, Styx “Kilroy Was Here” and others were all about the album, not the individual songs. But people don’t consume music that way and songs still got parsed out of the album, edited, and put on the radio.


I think today’s model entourages stronger song writing because each song must stand alone to be worthy of purchase/download. You don’t end up with a few weak songs getting on board because they “fit the concept”. The music industry has changed for the better.

Larry also makes points about free downloads and again I disagree.  Yes some people will steal the music outright, but others use the free downloads to see what they like – if it’s good, they go buy more and they introduce it to their friends. I think music downloads are a way to market your music without a the backing of big record label, radio, and all that comes with it (payola).

Bands can now reach a global audience via the internet and niche listeners can find niche music. Back in the heyday of Napster (which was truly music thievery) I used to play in a band and we put our music online. Another band in Australia (Dom Halpin & the Suspects) found it and wrote to me. We exchanged song ideas and bought one another’s CDs. I still love their music and I would have never found them (or vice versa) if not for downloadable music.

Personally I love what technology has done for music.  Sorry Larry.

~ by brianherman on March 10, 2009.

3 Responses to “Who moved my musical cheese?”

  1. Yeah. Agreed. I still like albums, though; it’s hard to say much in a 2.5 minute song.

  2. Not half as “soul destroying’ as listening to U2’s repetitive dirges, Larry, I can tell you.

  3. Now it makes sense; U2 hasn’t recorded anything worthwhile in 15 years.

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