Q&A with Paul McGuinness on Managing U2 for More Than 35 Years

I had a chance to meet Paul McGuinness a couple of times and I’ve interviewed him once.  I’ve always thought that he was one of the smartest and most ethical managers in the business.  Now that he’s stepped back from the day-to-day management of U2, what’s next?  Here’s a taste of the Billboard interview:

Billboard: What was your first impression of U2?
Paul McGuinness: They were pretty smart — that was the first thing that was very clear. They were ambitious, they were interested in what was going on with other bands, and were very committed to performance. Bono particularly was down the front of the stage, looking for eye contact with the audience. Even at a young age, he was a very charismatic frontman.What were some of your early wins in managing U2?
It was very hard to get a record deal. I thought they were so good, and it was so obvious that they would develop, that it surprised me greatly that pretty well every record company in London passed on them. We had some success getting A&R men to see them, but we had either bad luck, the shows weren’t very good or the A&R guys just didn’t see it. It took a surprisingly long time to get a deal, and in the end the deal we got from Island was the only one on offer.We were actually very lucky to get signed by Island, because their culture suited us perfectly. There seemed to be a policy of letting the artist be in charge. I’m sure it wasn’t as simple as that, but there was respect for the artist. What I did not realize at the time was that it was very important to have [Island founder] Chris Blackwell’s involvement. He wasn’t very involved in the signing of the band. He became a big supporter later, but the people who really signed the band at Island Records were [Island A&R man] Nick Stewart, press officer Rob Partridge and [talent scout] Annie Rosebury.

Were such superlatives as “biggest band in the world” even in your head at that point?
The only reason I wanted to manage a band at all was because I wanted to manage a very big band. I certainly wasn’t doing it philanthropically.

Keep reading.  (Thanks to Bobby for the link.)

Alan Cross

is an internationally known broadcaster, interviewer, writer, consultant, blogger and speaker. In his 40+ years in the music business, Alan has interviewed the biggest names in rock, from David Bowie and U2 to Pearl Jam and the Foo Fighters. He’s also known as a musicologist and documentarian through programs like The Ongoing History of New Music.

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