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Achtung, Google! U2 boss blasts 'monopoly' for free-for-all

But Spotify is fine

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Music manager Paul McGuinness has previously used the annual MIDEM show to chastise ISPs – but this year it's the Chocolate Factory that has earned his ire.

"Why are they not trying to solve the future in a more generous way?" he asked of Google. The quick answer is one you already know: Google remains a big fish in a small pond under its current advertising-based data-mining operation, and that's something McGuinness perhaps seems to appreciate: "Never underestimate the ability of a monopoly to defend itself," he said.

"Ultimately it's in their interests that the flow of content will continue. And that won't happen unless it's paid for," said McGuinness, Billboard reports.

McGuinness' own business, Principle Management, looks after PJ Harvey and The Rapture, but is best known for steering U2's ascent. The company earned €4.8m in the year ending March 2010, the most recent period for which accounts are available, with accumulated profits of €7.36m. By contrast Google spent $12bn for intellectual property last year by acquiring a phone manufacturer it didn't really want.

McGuinness had kinder words for Spotify – and blamed the record labels that own significant shares in the company for artists' antipathy to the music service.

"Spotify has yet to become popular with artists because artists don't see the financial benefit. That's partly the fault of the labels because the labels partly own Spotify, and there is insufficient transparency."

In fact, few artists and managers have much of an idea about the financial details of music services. Major labels take equity in the services in exchange for unspecified royalties. That's about all most people know. What's surprising is that ownership of retail operations by wholesale suppliers (the major labels) has escaped regulatory attention to date. The market is set to consolidate even further, with a Universal-EMI merger giving one company 50 per cent share of digital sales. ®

Ironic bootnote

Bono's investment company, Elevation Partners, lined up significant donations to the Wikimedia Foundation, the 'charitable' organisation behind Wikipedia. Wikipedia helped attract worldwide publicity to the anti-SOPA protest campaign two weeks ago by going dark for the day. Google also supported the anti-SOPA protests.

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