Posted by: smirkdirk | February 28, 2009

A Word About How U2 Is Trashing Anton Corbijn’s Companion Film “Linear”

As long as the blog currently has gone to All-U2-All-The-Time for the time being let me just go ahead with yet, another post…

In a previous post I briefly mentioned the film “Linear” by Anton Corbijn which is being released as part of the deluxe versions of the album on Tuesday.

I already posted a little bit about it but in case you skimmed here are the links again because it truly does deserve its own post:

Here is information about the film.

And what follows are some stills from the film courtesy of suckingrockandroll.com

These are some beautiful stills, and even without the benefit of motion, perfectly capture the mood of the new album. I’m really very curious and excited to see what he’s done.

My problem? Well, the only way to see this film, legally, is to purchase the digipak set, which is currently $25.99, at Amazon. That seems like a fair price for an album and the movie, right? Wrong, because the movie you are getting is a digital download, for play only on your computer, unless you can convert to a DVD format and further degrade its quality.

Have you ever watched a movie on your computer? It sucks. First of all, unless you have a really sweet set-up, there’s no couch available. Secondly, unless you have a really sweet set-up, you’re probably stuck watching it on a screen 20″ or less. Thirdly, unless you have a really sweet set-up or are on an airplane, it for the most part totally sucks. Oh, I already said that.

Look at those photos again. Click through and look at the other photos on the suckingrockandroll website. Does that film look like it deserves to be seen on a computer? Fuck, no. It looks like it needs to be seen on a nice flat-screen, in surround sound, with pure, couch awesomeness, a favorite movie snack in one hand, and a friggin’ Rum and Coke in the other. Or at least a glass of Merlot. Or maybe a special high-quality beer. Or maybe… Well, you get the idea.

So how to make this happen? Maybe a DVD of the movie? Oh yeah, that’s just a little too much to ask unless you have

– wait for it… wait for it…. –

…Sixty-Seven Dollars and Forty-Nine Cents… And that’s the Amazon price. Chances are your local retailer’s going to be more in the $100 range since the list price for the DVD set is $95.98 according to Amazon.

Maybe I’m just out of line here, but I do recall purchasing the mid-range, deluxe edition of their last album and it was somewhere in the $30 range and that included a DVD. Did DVD manufacturing prices somehow go up in the last five years? Or maybe somebody got a little greedy. You think?

“Well, Smirk, technically speaking you are wrong. The digipack is actually a higher quality product with 17.2 percent more pixels per square inch than your standard DVD…” Bullshit. If they cared about the technical quality of the film they would have a Blu-Ray version.

If I was Corbijn I would be personally insulted that U2 recommends poor people, or people on budgets, watch the film on tiny computer screens. This would be akin to selling their album only on hissy-scratchy cassette, unless, of course, you have $100, and then you get to listen in CD quality sound.

Buck up, U2, I was gonna buy, but now I’m not. I’m sure I will stumble across it elsewhere. And since I’m stuck watching it on a computer anyway, why bother with the “official” version.

Overall, it finally leads me to wonder exactly what U2’s internal marketing stats look like, because I almost guarantee that they have an in-house survey unit and statisticians that know exactly what the average income of the U2 buyer, and the technical prowess of the average U2 fan, which I would suspect on both counts is higher than average.

Ultimately, as much as I like them, U2 is no longer just a band, but a business, which just like any other business has a product to sell. And it has been this way for quite some time, probably since the absolute success of The Joshua Tree. And I also understand how much piracy has cost not just U2, but the entire music business. But, a hundred dollars for a DVD? Do they really have to be so transparently shameless?

(So as not to be a total spoil-sport, I will commend them for marketing the cd-only edition with no extras, at only $8.99, but my guess is this is only in response to piracy, not as any favor to their buyers.)

For love or money?

In the words of one of the ladies at one of the U2 message boards around the web, a huge U2 fan, “Ugh… Marketing like this is beginning to make U2 feel a little alien, and that’s a profound disappointment.”

Rant Over:

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Responses

  1. Thanks for your article. My thoughts exactly. Being a U2 fan for decades now, I always felt U2 had a great connection to us fans. Prices for their limited edition CD’s are just plain ridiculous. First of. Yes. The majority of U2 fans do make some decent money every year (because they’re older and established.) Second, even as I appreciate the band and their efforts, prices like this make someone think about piracy in no time. $100 for a DVD ? amazing…
    C’mon U2, you should know better than that !
    Now, if a percentage of the proceeds may benefit someone, somewhere in Africa I’ll gladly do it. But as my experience with their marketing website goes, this is just another disappointment in a list that grows bigger every month.

    GREAT new album – BAD marketing execution.

    • Thanks for your reply! Related to the “greed” aspect, (and I so hate to use that word, but it does seem to fit,) is that while I was reading this article in Slate about Blackberry sponsoring the new tour, it occurred to me, is the Blackberry sponsorship actually lowering ticket prices? Or, is U2 just walking to the bank with the advertising money? I’m guessing that my bank account will take the same hit, if not a bigger one, as it did in ’01 and ’05. It must be said that it speaks volumes not just about the band, but about their fans, that it does seem that, unlike other bands, the fans are actually the hardest on the band when it comes to these issues.

      As far as “Linear” goes… I’m still waiting for it to appear online in my usual movie haunts…

  2. FYI… the video is downloadable with the iTunes Deluxe version of the album for $17.99. Doesn’t help with the whole watching it on the computer thing, but at least it lets you OWN a version of the film without shelling out for the DVD version. Because, get this:

    The “downloadable” videos with the digipak and magazine versions ISN’T REALLY DOWNLOADABLE — it has to be watched online, while the CD is in your computer’s disk drive! And some people have had tech problems even doing that. So not only are you tied to watching it on your computer, you have to do so over an internet connection with all the potential for glitches (not to mention that whenever they decide to take it down from the web, you have nothing to show for it) rather than dl’ing it to your own drive. What a ripoff.

    I’ve read one thing comparing the film unfavorably to watching paint dry, and another that swears it’s the missing piece to understanding the whole album. Go figure. There is also supposedly a great non-album track, Winter, featured therein.

    Oh, and the iTunes Deluxe version also comes with a download of whatever that “magazine” is in one of the physical cd versions. I guess I’ll get that. But the really annoying thing is that the iTunes Plus files I’ll get with it are of LOWER QUALITY than the files circulating for free on the net, 256k compared to the 320k files I downloaded for free! What a world.

    Oh yeah, both the standard and deluxe iTunes versions have a bonus track, an alt. version of the title song.

  3. OK, PS: Apparently the film IS downloadable with those physical versions, people are just having a hell of a time doing so.

    And on further thought, you’re right — who wants to watch an hour long movie on their computer?

    Meanwhile the really important thing is the non-album track Winter — which you can listen to here!

    http://nolineonthehorizont.blogspot.com/2009/03/escucha-winter.html

  4. Thanks Jeff! I still haven’t seen it, and am checking my usual free-movie haunts every couple of days for a downloadable, burnable AVI file so I can give it a chance on the HDtv.

    I would totally buy it on DVD, all official, for $17.99, but not a download.


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