U2 sells out
November 14, 2001 5:21 AM   Subscribe

U2 sells out (again?). I just got this email, which calls for a boycott of Best Buy because of an exclusive distribution deal with U2. Apparently, their upcoming concert DVD will be available at Best Buy two weeks before we can buy it anywhere else. Personally, I hoping for another interview with the Edge in which he claims to know nothing about this. I've always been a fan, but it is difficult to decide if these guys are genuine humanitarians or corporate pawns. In this day in age, I'm sure you can be both and get away with it.
posted by jeffvc (57 comments total)
If pressed, I'd vote for "corporate prawns". See the bit about U2 in Phil Agre's recent "Minor Annoyances and What They Teach Us". (Doesn't mention this new Best Buy deal, but he's not pleased with them in general.)

I don't follow classical basoon music, myself, so I don't have a firsthand opinion to offer... *8)
posted by davidchess at 5:32 AM on November 14, 2001

not everything you get in your inbox is true. Do you have any legitimate evidence of this?
posted by atom128 at 5:33 AM on November 14, 2001


What exactly is so wrong with an exclusive deal with a store? It's only two weeks, it dosn't hurt anybody, and it apperantly allows them to make more money for the work they are creating.

I mean it's not like U2 was on the front lines of the Anti-napster crusade or anything.
posted by delmoi at 5:35 AM on November 14, 2001

I'm so tired of the assumption that business savvy by artists means they're sell outs. If it has not caused them to compromise their artistic integrity then it's just a good deal.
posted by Mick at 5:36 AM on November 14, 2001

Do people still talk about bands "selling out"? U2 is a group of wealthy middle-aged entertainers and business owners and their employees. They aren't corporate pawns; they are a corporation, or a group of corporations. They are the CEOs. You and millions much like you buy their products and they make lots of money. They spend a while in R&D, they release the product, and, to boost sales, they go from market to market on an expensive publicity tour. Then it's back to the drawing board.
posted by pracowity at 5:37 AM on November 14, 2001

Why is this news to anyone? The band recorded a song for a Batman movie and recently organized a Boston concert so it could perform two of the songs during the NBA finals. Bono carried a basketball around on stage. Why does anyone think the group is immune to commercial scheming?
posted by rcade at 5:39 AM on November 14, 2001

My little dog Snuggles starts growling every time "Beautiful Day" comes on the radio.

Best Buy does this sort of "exclusive" all the time. They'll work out a deal with a major label to run a special edition of a new release for a limited time. The "Best Buy" version will often have a bonus CD, or extra tracks that aren't on the regular version. I don't particularly have an opinion on this one way or another.
posted by tpoh.org at 5:45 AM on November 14, 2001

Exclusive deal?! For two weeks?!! The poster is invited to find the church of his or her church and get a life.
posted by ParisParamus at 5:45 AM on November 14, 2001

I think the point that can be made is that this is happening during the busiest shopping season of the year. I don't swim in corporate circles anymore, so I have to admit that I don't know how revered or relevant U2 is considered these days.

I think that any mom-and-pop that wanted to could go to Best Buy and buy some themselves and sell them at their own store at cost. Granted, they wouldn't make any money off of it, but they would be able to keep the customers looking for it in their own store long enough to make a few more holiday purchases. The system can be jammed.
posted by tpoh.org at 5:51 AM on November 14, 2001

I could see "U2 = sellout" being news if someone was just coming out of a ten year coma. Let's face it - all major label artists can be viewed as corporations, even the ones that have outwardly higher ethics (Radiohead.)

But I have no problem with boycotting Best Buy! In fact, I'm all for it.

U2's latest album is okay, but it's also not the "return to form" that a majority of critics claimed.

tpoh.org: I think that any mom-and-pop that wanted to could go to Best Buy and buy some themselves and sell them at their own store at cost.

Often stores like BB will add a quantity limit, or "No dealers" stipulation to prevent things just like that from happening. Although given the general ineptitude of BB employees, I suppose it can be done.
posted by hijinx at 5:54 AM on November 14, 2001

2nd church > > choice
posted by ParisParamus at 5:56 AM on November 14, 2001

The e-mail in question complains there are no message boards at U2.com.

U2's Zootopia forums were opened two or three weeks ago.

As for the complaint... I think there are more important things going on in the world. Music is big business. U2 realised this from day 1 and worked their arses off (and still do) to get popular, rich and powerful. I'm a fan, and I have no problem with this. To their credit, they've managed to retain some sense of artistry and conscience, and they aim to remain 'smack in the middle of contradiction'. More power to 'em.
posted by prolific at 6:03 AM on November 14, 2001

Also in the news: The Rolling Stones are old.
posted by ColdChef at 6:05 AM on November 14, 2001

Who are The Rolling Stones?
posted by mmarcos at 6:26 AM on November 14, 2001

U2 wanted to make money? those BASTARDS!!!

I'm with ColdChef....
BREAKING NEWS: men are bigger than mice
posted by srw12 at 6:28 AM on November 14, 2001

Oh WAHH. Cry me a river. I hear they're charging money for their CD, too.
posted by NortonDC at 6:32 AM on November 14, 2001

genuine humanitarians or corporate pawns.

Why can't you be both?
posted by jpoulos at 6:37 AM on November 14, 2001

Maynard James Keenan:

"All you know about me is what I've sold you. I sold out long before you ever even heard my name. I sold my soul to make a record, and you bought one."
posted by jragon at 6:48 AM on November 14, 2001

Who wants their stinky DVD anyway? They look like old hags imitating a cool band I used to listen to called U2. That band made some great music. This old hag version just poops out pop muzak.
posted by Outlawyr at 6:50 AM on November 14, 2001

The only thing that bothers me about these exclusive deals with major chains is that it takes two weeks of potential revenue away from smaller, independently owned record stores. Being a fan of smaller, independently owned record stores for their odd selection, wacky yet frighteningly knowledgeable staff, and generally lower prices* I like to see them get as much revenue as possible.

I doubt boycotting Best Buy will have much effect, but focusing your dollars on my beloved independent record stores would certainly help them.

*My SO and I broke our independent record store vow when we stopped at the mall for an emergency maternal birthday purchase of Faith Hill's latest release. We almost passed out at the $20.00 price tag. I guess we're spoiled by paying $11-15 for our music.
posted by jennyb at 6:52 AM on November 14, 2001

Just to put my two cents in:

U2 sucks and for the most part I like Best Buy, in fact I think Best Buy should be commended for offering a haven for men while their shoe and picture frame obsessed girlfriends are in Marshalls. For those of you not familiar with Marshalls it is a department like store that offers last season's and run off merchandise at a significant discount, like TJ Max. Boycott Marshalls, or TJ Max, or Outlet Malls, not poor Best Buy.
posted by Grok09 at 7:15 AM on November 14, 2001

great jones street.
posted by elle at 7:15 AM on November 14, 2001

Corporate prawns.
posted by glenwood at 7:18 AM on November 14, 2001

Selling "Sunday Bloody Sunday" to the National Football League, say, would be selling out. A more recent potential (that is, it hasn't happened) example would be selling "Stuck in a Moment" to Tivo. The posted bit of news just tells of a business deal.
posted by raysmj at 7:36 AM on November 14, 2001

Corporate pr0n.
posted by todds at 7:38 AM on November 14, 2001

Aerosmith is currently working with Dodge. A song from their new album is used in a current commercial. It's all over TV. People who obviously don't know Aerosmith when they hear them call their radio stations asking for "that Dodge song". The song is added to radio station play lists. Aerosmith sells more records.

Dodge promotes the concert tour. A truck is placed in front the arena and a blow up balloon pick-up truck is flown around the arena. Dodge ram logos are over the stage. Dodge sells more trucks. Factory workers stay employed. This is America. It's all good.
posted by chainring at 7:41 AM on November 14, 2001

(please forgive this interruption) This has no place in a Anti-U2 thread, but it's just too goddamned funny to go unmentioned: Vanilla Ice is worried about people watching him have sex with Madonna.
posted by ColdChef at 7:43 AM on November 14, 2001

Doesn't sound like Vanilla Ice is worried about the sex video...more like he *hopes* it surfaces, in order to legitimize his celebrity status in 1990.

Oh, and about U2, I don't mind what they're doing one bit. My wife and I are going to see them tomorrow night, and we are psyched! BTW, U2 was discussed here just last month.
posted by msacheson at 8:17 AM on November 14, 2001

it would be stupid of U2's record company not to take advantage of the band's market appeal, and indeed it's quite possible that all of this is not U2's choice... so i won't pass judgment on the band for that. as far as quality goes, my favorite U2 album is their oldest -- War -- so i won't exactly be rushing out to pick up this latest offering.
posted by moz at 8:27 AM on November 14, 2001

Grok09 is right - can't we simply boycott U2 for sucking and leave the financial aspects out of it? I've been conducting my own personal boycott for precisely this reason since Achtung Baby.

In other news, I find it somewhat difficult to believe that Madonna would submit to sex with Vanilla Ice, especially since I was available at the time.
posted by UncleFes at 8:30 AM on November 14, 2001

since I was available at the time

Retract that, it was 1990 and I was taken :P
posted by UncleFes at 8:32 AM on November 14, 2001

It's a business move by U2, plain and simple. That shouldn't be a revelation to anyone. I'm not surprised. I do think it's too bad for other retailers, because it takes sales of a major release away from them. And the first week or two is critical for new releases; sometimes that's the bulk of the inital sales, and it's all downhill from there.

As far as Best Buy is concerned, check out their own in-house boutique record label, Redline Entertainment. I can't find it on their minimal website, but they are handling the distribution of the upcoming new Prince album, "The Rainbow Children". They also handled a Pete Townshend release last year called "Lifehouse Elements."
posted by CosmicSlop at 8:35 AM on November 14, 2001

u2 sucks.
posted by Satapher at 8:42 AM on November 14, 2001

my favorite U2 album is their oldest -- War

Their oldest is Boy, two albums before War.
posted by smeat at 8:47 AM on November 14, 2001

whoops. thanks, smeat.
posted by moz at 8:52 AM on November 14, 2001

for an emergency maternal birthday purchase of Faith Hill's latest release. We almost passed out at the $20.00 price tag.
Excuse me but people who buy Faith Hill's stuff deserve to be ripped off. I don't care if it's for your mom -- she should know better, too
posted by matteo at 8:52 AM on November 14, 2001

U2 is not an ordinary band. I think people have certain expectations of them that they don't have for, say, Vanilla Ice. They don't expect greed, and they expect some amount of good taste. What if the band had made the deal with McDonalds, so that the newest single would be available for $5 with the purchase of three or more Big Macs? It's really the same thing. Best Buy is an evil corporation and the band should have nothing to do with them unless, of course, the proceeds are going to charity, which I somehow doubt. I also doubt the band is totally unaware/powerless when it comes to how they are marketed. It's their image, their branding, and it seems like something they would care a great deal about.
posted by swift at 9:14 AM on November 14, 2001

I just got the new Fugazi -- $10.99. Now THAT is a darned deal.

As for U2, anyone familiar with the negative land controversy knows that they are bunch of hipocrits. Old news. Get over it.

The odd thing is -- I was in best buy the other day for some reason, and found a Refused album I hadn't seen anywhere. (And I hit all the major indie-stores in Philly on a semi-regular basis). Anyone else into them? Swedish revolutionary hardcore...
posted by ph00dz at 9:16 AM on November 14, 2001

The Negativland stuff is much better, anyway.
posted by swift at 9:24 AM on November 14, 2001

I don't care if it's for your mom -- she should know better, too.

She should know better than what? To have her own tastes in music that diverge from yours, matteo? This whole MeFi musical elitist 'your choices are crap, mine are far superior' garbage is getting really old.

U2 is not an ordinary band. I think people have certain expectations of them that they don't have for, say, Vanilla Ice.

Exactly, because U2 has done a great deal of personal PR to position themselves as the champions of "Important Social Causes" -- but I addressed this in the thread last month. They clamor for more money for AIDS research and for Third World Debt relief while simultaneously making these sorts of semi-slimy deals which serve no purpose other than fattening their own wallets. If that isn't the walking definition of hypocrisy, I'm not sure what is.
posted by Dreama at 9:25 AM on November 14, 2001

2 things:

1) Do we know that the deal was made with the band, and not their label or distributor or whathaveyou?

2) In my local mall, out of Best Buy, Sam Goody, Borders, Suncoast, Circuit City, and possibly others, Best Buy is consistently the cheapest for DVDs. I don't know if this is only the case when Best Buy has to compete with other stores on prices, but if U2 was going to have an exclusive arrangement with one vendor, Best Buy would be the one I'd pick.

No, I'm not on BB's payroll ;)
posted by MonkeyMeat at 9:28 AM on November 14, 2001

U2? are they still around? Might as well book tickets for the Corrs as well.

I'm off to buy some good tickets.
posted by Frasermoo at 9:29 AM on November 14, 2001

Wasn't Bono buddy-buddy with Jesse Helms a few months ago? I kinda lost it for 'em after that...
posted by Wizzle at 10:02 AM on November 14, 2001

I'm sorry you dislike the *elitist 'your choices are crap, mine are far superior' garbage* thing. it is not garbage, unfortunately. nobody can seriously say that it's "just about taste". otherwise, the men who created the Teletubbies or Pokemon would be respected as much as Leonardo Da Vinci is. well, they're not considered great artists, and Leonardo is.
in this world there's good music (or literature, or photography, etc) and there's crap. it's pretty lame to scream "elitism!" every time somebody tries to say that crap is, actually, crap
posted by matteo at 10:12 AM on November 14, 2001

way to be "indie", matteo. you're so unbefuckinglievably cool.
posted by moz at 10:18 AM on November 14, 2001

Best Buy actually lives up to its name with CD pricing. They're always at least a couple bucks cheaper than anyone else, including independents. Back in Detroit I used to patronize indie Record Time in Roseville pretty much constantly until they opened up a Best Buy nearby. Record Time had a great selection of stuff, but Best Buy's was mighty close, and the prices were lower. Shopping at Best Buy was like getting a free CD for every six or seven you buy.

These days, of course, you can get basically any CD in print over the Internet, at prices that beat even Best Buy, so that's where I do most of my shopping.

it's pretty lame to scream "elitism!" every time somebody tries to say that crap is, actually, crap

No, it's not. It's a fairly accurate use of the term. The problem is that people think that being elitist is bad for some reason. It's not.
posted by kindall at 10:23 AM on November 14, 2001

matteo, what you just said is elitist. Just admit it.

I'm the same way. We all are. I like u2 -- much less than i did before Rattle and Hum. I loathe their corporate side, but I respect Bono's politics, even if it is mingled with shameless self-promotion. Furthermore, I am almost always impressed by the Edge's technique, even still (that Batman song being a notable exception).

Faith Hill I could do without, along with most of what the corporate recording industry throws at me. Most of it is, as you said, crap, imnsho. But then again, I'm a snob. I know what I like and I know why I like it. Anything that does not fall into that realm usually gets classified as "crap." Still, no matter how I justify it, it comes down to taste.

I will grant you that for many people "taste" is a matter of going along with majority opinion ( read corporate mechandising ). They are sheep, blah, blah, blah. Interesting thing about majority opinion, though: I'm willing to be that if you asked Faith Hill fans if Da Vinci was a "great artist," most of them would reply " yes."
posted by jeffvc at 10:36 AM on November 14, 2001

Shop independent, if you love music.
Thanks for that ColdChef, he really should never utter a word in public.
Vanilla Ice say:
'It's hard to say this - I got my friends, you know.'
It certainly is hard to believe, you got that right.
posted by asok at 10:36 AM on November 14, 2001

er I'm willing to bet
posted by jeffvc at 10:37 AM on November 14, 2001

Teletubbies is pretty good, too.
posted by Grangousier at 10:46 AM on November 14, 2001

Teletubbies make good targets, too.

Anything I would say here re:selling out I've said before.

I've also showed my feathers as a U2 fan here before, so I'll just stifle a yawn and give ATYCLB another listen.
posted by arco at 11:01 AM on November 14, 2001

For God's sake don't think for a moment that I have a problem with Faith Hill's FANS. I have something against HER MUSIC, and especially against the system capable to package supremely uninteresting music (usually derivative songs performed by good-looking boys who work out a lot or by underage-looking, half naked girls) and turn it into a huge hit.
I'll grant you that Hill's fans generally understand artistic greatness, but I don't even care if they have Picassos and Chagalls hanging on their walls.
My only, initial point in this thread is, I don't care if prepackaged pop CD's are expensive -- they're supposed to be expensive and a ripoff, they're a product for customers, not music for fans.
The music I like, I can find for much less than 20 bucks, that's all. Concerts I go to, they're not as expensive as, say, Britney Spears' or U2's (smaller artists don't have that kind of entourage and overhead of course). It's a paradox, OK, but sometimes quality is actually ess expensive than crap.
posted by matteo at 11:06 AM on November 14, 2001

I'd like to ask a question about this, U2 are from Ireland of course, which was 20 years ago in a lot tougher shape economically at least than it is today. I know there are a lot of non americans here, which is good of course, but I wonder if this might be a cultural difference. Because, it seems like Americans have sort of a guilt about success, but to someone from another country, making more money from your DVD by giving BB special treatment is an obvious choice. This wouldn't make them sell outs to themselves, even though there could be a more hard-core choice to support indie stores. Being a sell out would mean selling your song to and appearing in a Jaguar ad. (Trolling for Sting fans).
posted by chrismc at 11:14 AM on November 14, 2001

1) U2 can do whatever they want, as far as I'm concerned.

2) Best Buy is cool. Cheap CDs... and their staff leave me alone while I'm shopping, which is what I want, instead of being followed around and asked by numerous different staff if I can be "helped" (like they could if I wanted them to) at Circuit City, the true scourge of retail electronics.

3) "genuine humanitarians or corporate pawns"? Those are our choices? Sheesh.

4) Why do peeps get their panties in such a bunch about "artistes" making money? It's like begrudging professional athletes, say baseball players, who sign contracts for tens of million$ to play ball. Like you wouldn't?

5) But then, what would I know about money being a corrupting influence? I live in NYC, and we just elected a billionaire as our next mayor. (And even if he'd lost, we'd still think that being able to call yourself a billionaire was a good thing.)
posted by verdezza at 1:35 PM on November 14, 2001

I think I'm going to boycott everyone for a while, because I'm damn close to broke. Except Meijer. Can't boycott them, I need food.
posted by dagnyscott at 1:52 PM on November 14, 2001

Anyone expecting more altruistic or "enlightened" business practices or marketing plans will ultimately be sorely disappointed. Tickets for their show in Minneapolis topped out at $131 + TicketBastard fees. They have never shown any reluctance to grab the cash when they could. This latest BestBuy arrangement is no watershed event.

Now if any of them decide, as really wealthy entertainers, to use their cash, influence or celebrity status on behalf of charity or the public good, that's a very nice thing. I think Bono work for world debt relief is extremely admirable, for instance. But when U2, Inc. has the promotion machine all jacked up for a tour or album, Bono's ominipresent Robin Williams-like smirk and pontificating screeds wear thin pretty fast.

See them for what they are, not some idealized notion of what the band means for you.
posted by CosmicSlop at 2:57 PM on November 14, 2001

Best Buy is generally one of the cheaper outlets to purchase DVDs from so you could say U2 is saving their fans from getting gauged by the Wall and Sam Goody and Tower.
posted by uftheory at 2:56 PM on November 15, 2001

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