Another month, another rant from U2’s longtime manager Paul McGuinness, about how everyone else is to blame for the music industry’s problems, except of course the music industry and the major record labels. Primarily, he blames the Internet service providers — whom he compares to “shoplifters” and says are “rigging the market” — but he also tosses a few grenades at cellphone handset makers, telecom companies and (as far as I can tell) everyone other than your Mom (and he’s keeping a pretty close eye on her too). Seriously — why can’t Bono or the Edge or someone get this guy to sit down and shut up?
McGuinness’s latest rant was a sort of micro version of his speech at the Midem conference in Cannes, in which he said:
“Network operators, in particular, have for too long had a free ride on music — on our clients’ content. It’s time for a new approach — time for ISPs to start taking responsibility for the content they’ve profited from for years.”
This is the music industry’s equivalent of newspaper mogul Sam Zell’s rant about how Google is “stealing our content” and should be forced to pay. And McGuinness thinks that if ISPs don’t cough up some dough, then they should all be forced to do so by the government (something others — including in Canada — have recommended as well). While we’re at it, why not force gun manufacturers to pay a fee to the financial industry because occasionally someone uses one of their products to rob a bank? There is no rational basis for what McGuinness is suggesting, other than the sheer desperation of the music industry.
The same goes for the plan that Jim Griffin has been hired by Warner to try and set up, in which users would pay an “Internet tax” (yes, I realize it doesn’t meet a lot of the technical requirements of a tax, but I’m using the term in the sense of a “forced payment”). The Electronic Frontier Foundation and others have proposed a more voluntary arrangement, in which music fans could pay a monthly fee for the right to download at will, in much the same way that the radio industry was legalized through a compulsory licencing system. That’s something that might be worth talking about — but not with Paul McGuinness.