U2: Rattle, hum and kerr-ching!

Boring do-gooder rockers U2 have signed with Live Nation to handle the band's branding rights.

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Last Updated: 31 Aug 2010

It’s not your traditional record deal, but is it even better than the real thing? Perhaps. Many are seeing such tie-ups as a future model for the recording industry, which has been heavily warped by a decline in CD sales and increasing internet piracy. Many acts have begun to believe the real money lies in lucrative tours and merchandising. Hence the Eagles’ recent big money appearance at the 02 Arena, and Prince’s controversial move of giving away his new CD in the Mail on Sunday while lining up a lucrative residency at the former Millennium Dome.

Live Nation, the world’s biggest tour promoter, signed a similar deal with Madonna in October last year, which was described as an ‘all-in-one recording and touring contract’. Madonna’s deal is for 10 years, and believed to be worth $120m. U2’s is for 12-years and is thought to be less extensive, and no figures have yet been disclosed.

The tour company certainly seems to know its Beatles from its Michael Boltons. It promoted U2’s most recent tour, which became the second highest-grossing concert tour in history, making $389.4m. The highest-grossing ever was Live Nation’s Bigger Bang tour for the Rolling Stones, 2005 to 2007, which earned $558.3m. Live Nation owns 170 venues worldwide, and last year made £2.2bn.

Elsewhere, other bands are also moving in mysterious ways, and the record companies’ losses are providing ripe opportunities for further commercial tie-ups. Take Bacardi’s recent deal with boring dance band Groove Armada, which saw the spirit brand sign the right to release the band’s material, and to have them perform live at 25 Bacardi-branded events.

It’s being hailed as a new era of ‘bands and brands’, which may make marketers giddy and secure the music industry from a financial point of view; but it is sure to spark a flurry of outrage from music fans bemoaning the further corrosion of rock’s healthy counter-culture credentials.

Back with U2, it’s not been announced whether Live Nation will have any input into Bono’s celebrity planet-saving schedule.

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