Paul McGuinness

Happy Birthday to Paul McGuinness who turns 64 today.

We were at the Dallas show during the 360 tour, we were in the GA section, and while I was up as close to the stage as I could get, my wife hung back towards the edge of the GA, as she is wont to do (she said she doesn’t like standing that long, which is why I have seats for the two shows I’m taking her to in Chicago, and GA for one of the two I’m going to without her). But it was actually in the pre-show stuff, we were hanging back a little and watching a lot of the goings-on. I had moved up just a little to see something, I think, and when I returned back to her she asked me if I knew who “Paul” was. After a little discussion, and adding a bunch of context, it turned out that Paul McGuinness had walked right by her, and had been greeted by several folks on his walk. And I had missed him by that much.

I am somewhat ambivalent about Paul McGuinness. There are stories of him being called the fifth member of U2, which is absurd, because anyone in the world knows there’s only four people in U2 (heck, a lot of people think there’s only two). Yeah, he was pretty important to the growth of the band, although I also tend to think that the band would have been successful no matter what. The path less traveled and all that. I think I said something similar when I talked about Bono, that he would have been famous whether he was in U2 or somewhere else, that’s just his personality. But I honestly don’t know what things a particular manager does that make their band successful, so I can’t tell you how much of an impact he really had on the band. I guess I would say big, since the band credits him for much of their success.

But like the rest of them Paul has provided me some embarrassment. Doing the right thing by his band, he moved their corporate office to the Netherlands so that they could avoid Irish taxes. Now don’t get me started on that kind of move. There are many companies in the US who have done the same thing, moved their HQ to some tax haven to save themselves money, while a) screwing the rest of us who have to pay more taxes, and b) just changing an address on a form, not actually going to those countries in any way except financially. Personally I’d change the law so that the company would be taxed based on where the CEO and the board actually live. Since they all still live in the US, tax the company as Americans. If they don’t want that, they can move to some island somewhere. Oh, sorry, rant over, the point being that McGuinness did that and got a lot of heat from people but saved the band money.

And that’s not the least of it, he also rails against piracy now and then, being a tool of corporate music, and not understanding how the world has moved on. He is like the old rich guys who made their money one way, not knowing that way is no longer possible, like selling buggy whips after the car is invented. I’m guessing that there will never be a band like U2 again, one that dominates the world, because the world is fracturing into smaller and smaller pieces. By that I mean it is a lot easier for a bunch of small bands to become medium bands and make a decent living, than it is for one giant band to dominate. And I think that’s a good thing. If you’re a band, spread the word, get your music out to people, because it’s only by being heard that you’ll get anywhere. As they say, give away the music and sell the t-shirts and tickets.

Anyway, if he’s the fifth member of U2 then he’s definitely my least favorite. But still, he has the history, and I can give him all the credit in the world for that.