Monday 17 June 2019

Bono: 'I could go on for an hour about water charges and be very popular'

Brian O'Reilly and Caitlin McBride

U2 star Bono has declined to give his view on the controversial water charges - despite admitting he could speak on the topic for an hour.

When questioned by at the Web Summit today on the issue that is dominating the national headlines, the normally talkative singer decided to stay on the fence.

"You know, I will really disappoint you"

"Whatever I say, it's a headline I don't want to be in. By the way, I could go on for about an hour and it would make me very popular."

The U2 frontman said the Web Summit is a "very good thing" for Ireland, since we can sometimes be perceived as "eggheaded".

"I feel that it's a very very good thing for our country for people see us as eggheaded, because I think we're much more nerdy than we admit. I've noticed this travelling around the world, the amount of Irish people that turn up in start ups."

Bono at the Web Summit at the RDS in Dublin. Photo: Steve Humphreys
Bono at the Web Summit at the RDS in Dublin. Photo: Steve Humphreys
Bono speaks at the third day of the Web Summit (Photo: Sportsfile)'s Style Editor Caitlin McBride interviews Bono at the Web Summit. Photo: Naoise Culhane

"We're naturally entrepreneurial, but also, our interest in technology is way better than you'd imagine."

"I was just explaining on stage about bands, a band in a garage, U2 started off as a band in a garage, U2 was a start up and there were four people trying to figure it out. We're still trying to figure it out even now."

He said: "We're trying things, experiments, some succeed and some fail. But it's that Beckett thing isn't it, that 'fail' - you fail harder, you fail better. We're not afraid of failing, Irish people, we don't have that ego. We've an even bigger ego - we don't care. I do think we're good at this."

"Now, there's a lot of competition, I think we should be really sanguine about the fact that the 12.5% corporate tax rate is a great thing, but actually what's going to keep companies here is the environment of tech savvy, smart, talented, bright minds that is our work force. The city itself has an environment that promotes this kind of creativity. We want to be a little careful, I've just noticed looking over at London, at Boris, he's quite a force of nature.

"We've got to stay sharp, stay innovative."

Bono told Dublin's Web Summit that he is a 'spoiled rotten rock star'.

He was speaking about how the digital age has changed the music industry.

"I would be very excited about being in U2, yes, but I'd also be very excited if I were starting a band. I'd be as excited as when we formed U2 when I was 17 18".

He acknowledged that the music industry has undergone a 'trauma' during the transition from physical to digital, and that songwriters have been hardest hit, not performers.

"I still think forming a band is so exciting, and there are incredible things to play with.

"I see streaming service as an exciting way to get to people.

"Anything that gets your songs out there, anything that helps you is a good thing.

"The remunerative bit of this still needs to be figured out,  it's an experimental period."

He also discussed the backlash the band received after their new album was pre-loaded

"We got a lot of people who weren't  interested in U2 to be mad at U2, and I'd call that an improvement in the relationship.

"And we were paid. No one values music more than U2. The greatest way to serve your songs to get them heard. I'm a spoiled, rotten overpaid rockstar.

However he warned that musicians need to stand up for the value of their art.

"Musicians are losing that fire that they had. We must be careful we don't underestimate our value. We don't have to play for The Lord of the manor. The Lord of the manor can come see us, and pay in like everybody else.

In the aftermath of Taylor Swift pulling her music from Spotify, he defended the music streaming service.

"The real enemy is not between digital downloads and streaming. The real fight is between opacity and transparency. The music industry has historically involved itself in quite considerable deceit."

He said record companies must be honest with their artists about how often their songs are being played.

"Spotify are giving up 70pc of all their revenues to the rights owner. It's just people don't know where the money is, because the record labels aren't being transparent", he said.

He said that the iTunes giveaway of their new album was one of the band's proudest moments.

"Oh yes. It's one of the proudest things for us. We always wanted our music to be heard. We worked for years and years on the most personal songs we've very written, then the idea they may not be heard is terrifying.

"We were delighted to get the chance to introduce ourselves to people who may not listen to rock", he added.

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