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U2 Gives Away New Album, Makes Money by Serving Customers

September 10, 2014 in Economics

By Ryan McMaken


Sometimes being an entrepreneur means just seeing the writing on the wall. Amazingly, there are still Intellectual Property dogmatists out there who think it’s fine that the FBI runs around arresting the band’s own fans for making copies of digital files, but U2 has apparently figured out that ship sailed long ago, and is giving away the band’s latest album.   While some artists are trapped in a mid 20th-century time warp – and think that musicians should be able to make money for selling a recording of a song recorded decades before – U2 accepts that in order to make money, they might have to do actual work, such as touring and giving their fans what they want.

Anyone who has followed popular music over time knows that changes in technology (e.g., the 12-inch single) constantly change the nature of the business and the kind of music that gets recorded. The proliferation of infinitely-copyable digital files is no different, and the artists who have figured this out and serve their customers, will make much more money (ceteris paribus)  that those artists who think the fans exist to do what the artist wants. In other words, those entrepreneurs who better serve society will be more handsomely rewarded.  Those who have contempt for their customers will disappear.  This is the basic equation of entrepreneurial activity.

U2′s latest move also adds an additional nail to the coffin of the old system of charts and RIAA certifications such as certified “gold” records. “The charts” have been meaningless for years in the face of new technology, and U2 knows this. Anything that inceases the irrelevance of the RIAA, BFF of SOPA, can’t be bad.

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