Paul McGuinness has managed U2 since the band's inception. He's always been one of my favorite managers--as he is for many journalists--because he doesn't pull any punches.
In a revealing interview my former Billboard colleague Ray Waddell conducted with McGuinness in Chicago on the opening date of the band's U.S. tour, McGuinness gave a rare look at how a gigantic tour by Bono and the Boys rolls.
Among the few nuggets:
U2's current 360 tour, despite selling out across the globe, has yet to turn a profit. "When do we hit the break-even point? We haven't hit it yet," McGuinness tells Billboard. "But we will sometime between now and the end of this leg."
How is it possible that a tour will go on to gross $300 million and sell around 3 million tickets is still in the red? Because it costs $750,000/per day to keep the operation running. And that's regardless of whether there is a show that day.
"Whether we're playing or not, the overhead is about $750,000 daily," McGuinness says. "That's just to have the crew on payroll, to rent the trucks, all that. There's about 200 trucks. Each stage is 37 trucks, so you're up to nearly 120 there. And then the universal production is another 50-odd trucks, and there are merchandise trucks and catering trucks."
I have covered the concert industry for a long time and I have never heard of that big a daily nut. Nor have I heard of a 200-truck tour before. I don't know for sure, but the math makes it sound like there are three stages out there. It's not uncommon for huge stadium shows to have two identical stages so one can be setting up in the next city on the route, but three stages is a new one on us (unless, and that's not the case here, there are three different venue sizes, such as when the Rolling Stones did their stadium/arena/club tour).
Also, McGuinness tells Waddell that, unlike Bruce Springsteen's manager Jon Landau, he is in favor of a Ticketmaster/Live Nation merger. However, that comment can't be viewed without the knowledge that executives now at Live Nation have promoted the band's last four tour. Plus, last year, U2 inked a 12-year deal with Live Nation to oversee its branding, digital and merchandising business.