Bono believes there’s a space in the current landscape for music with less of a pop sensibility and more rage — and that revolution will come. In the meantime, however, the U2 frontman says the current streaming model is simply a “transition,” and that today’s music needs a shot of masculinity.
“I think music has gotten very girly,” Bono said in a wide-ranging new interview with Rolling Stone‘s Jann Wenner. “And there are some good things about that, but hip-hop is the only place for young male anger at the moment, and that’s not good. When I was 16, I had a lot of anger in me. You need to find a place for it and for guitars, whether it is with a drum machine – I don’t care. The moment something becomes preserved, it is f—ing over. You might as well put it in formaldehyde. In the end, what is rock ‘n’ roll? Rage is at the heart of it. Some great rock & roll tends to have that, which is why the Who were such a great band. Or Pearl Jam. Eddie [Vedder] has that rage.”
Elsewhere, Bono talks about faith, love, mortality and politics, while adamantly declining to name the illness or incident that nearly killed him this year. U2 recently wrapped up a 30th anniversary tour for The Joshua Tree, before releasing their 14th studio album Songs of Experience earlier this month.
When asked where U2 fits into a current culture where rock is not necessarily central, Bono first addressed the business-end of the music industry. “The table has been gamed a little bit. Right now, streaming is on the ad-based model – and that is very, very young, and it’s very, very pop” he said. “It’s dominated by frequency of plays, but that is not actually a measure of the weight of an artist. When you move from an ad-based model to a subscription model, a funny thing happens: Then, the artist who will make you sign up is actually more valuable.
“If you are a teenager and you are listening to whatever the pop act is, you’re probably listening to them 100 times a day. It’s a teenage crush, but in a year’s time you won’t care about that,” Bono added. “But artists that have a connection with you and your life, you pay for the subscription service. In fact, we are going to witness a revolution in the way artists and their fans interact. Chance the Rapper, who has a beautiful soul and a mind to match it, has no record label. He is doing it himself, and he is successful to the point where he can give a million dollars to the Chicago school system.
“But if your music is on Apple or on Spotify, you can speak straight to people,” Bono continued. “What you need from record labels is advice and, you know, help with how you manage your band or brand or the artwork and the videos and all of that. This is really a transition period. It has been very unfriendly to a lot of artists. I knew Spotify would come through for people, but a lot of my friends were angry for believing me because they said, ‘We are just getting micro-payments.’ I said things were going to change once this gets to scale, and it is going to take a while. It is going to be unpleasant: Not a good time to be Cole Porter, right now.”