Despite the fact that they haven’t had a radio “hit” in many years, U2 remains a solid concert act.
This spring, the band will go on tour performing their landmark The Joshua Tree album in it’s entirety. This is a watershed moment for U2.
They have finally realized that they are irrelevant.
That sounds critical, but it isn’t. Great brands (and bands) know and appreciate their place in the world. The Rolling Stones realized many years ago that they were a nostalgia act, and they stopped making new music. They stopped trying to be relevant. Their most recent album, Blue And Lonesome, was a hard core blues album that sold well (considering the genre). They also released Havana Moon this year, a live album from their famous Havana concert last year. Neither album attempted to produce mass-appeal hit songs. They played their hits, and they played the songs their true fans appreciate.
When The Rolling Stones play live, you get their greatest hits. They sprinkle in a few nuggets or seldom-heard tracks, but The Rolling Stones recognized many years ago that they were a nostalgia act. The moment they stopped trying to be relevant in the moment, everything got easier.
On the other hand, U2 kept trying to be relevant. Their Songs of Innocence album was pre-loaded to iPhone’s around the world, resulting in more negative feedback than positive reception. Despite creating music that was quite good, U2 suffered more from Songs of Innocence than they profited. The subsequent tour helped convince people (and critics) that the band still had chops, but the digital release strategy come across as desperation in an era where the band was fading from relevance.
Doing a tour in support of the 30th anniversary of The Joshua Tree is the best career move U2 could make in 2017. They are no longer musically relevant. They are a nostalgia act.
There is NOTHING wrong with that.
Great brands (and bands) know their place. U2 knows they are a nostalgia act that aging Gen-Xers will pay to see for many many years to come. U2 is the new Rolling Stones.
Tommy Bahama knows that they have a special place with 50+ men who dream of being beach bums.
LuluLemon understands their place with 30-50 year-0ld women who aspire to be more physically and spiritually connected.
Brands (and bands) who don’t understand and embrace their place in the world almost universally fail. It is a pretty simple formula:
1. Know who loves you
2. Create things the people who love you will love
Talk to your fans. Give your fans what they want. Stop trying to reach non-fans with material they are highly likely to ignore. It is a waste of your time and it devalues your brand in the eyes of the people who love you.